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U.S. Lifts Some Tariffs on Canada and Mexico; Trump Claims He Was Never Warned about Flynn; U.S.-Iran Tensions; Voting Underway in Australia; U.S.-China Trade War Affecting Farmers; 72nd Annual Cannes Film Festival; Remote Islands Plagued with Plastic Litter. Aired 4-5a ET
Aired May 18, 2019 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So that deal is going to be a fantastic deal for our country.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Trump's tariff diplomacy: did it work?
The U.S. president drops tariffs on aluminum and steel from Canada and Mexico.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Surfboards and swimsuits on display as voters in Australia go to the polls. We look at what's at stake in the elections in Australia.
HOWELL (voice-over): Also ahead this hour, a third for a Cannes Film Festival. Why this director is making history at the famous event.
ALLEN (voice-over): And we'll look at the other films there as well. Lots going on. We're not in Cannes, but that's OK.
ALLEN (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and in Cannes. We appreciate you joining us. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL (voice-over): I'm George Howell here at CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. NEWSROOM starts right now.
HOWELL: In the trade war between the United States and China have hit a roadblock but things are opening up between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
ALLEN: The U.S. announced it has lifted steel and aluminum tariffs on its neighbors. This could help clear the way to a new version of the North America free trade agreement that the countries' leaders had signed. U.S. president Donald Trump calls it a fantastic deal for the American people.
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TRUMP: Hopefully Congress will approve the USMCA quickly and then the great farmers and manufacturers and steel plants will make our economy even more successful than it already is.
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HOWELL: In the meantime, Canada and Mexico are also dropping their retaliatory tariffs. The two will also drop any outstanding complaints against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization. Those tariffs were a significant roadblock to the new North American free trade agreement that all three nations signed on to.
ALLEN: Paula Newton is in the Canadian capital with a wrap of all of these developments for us.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A hard-fought concession for both Canada and Mexico after protesting loudly about these tariffs, especially the way they were applied. The United States saying it was a matter of national security.
They are lifted now so it paves the way for the new NAFTA deal to be ratified by all three countries. There was a lot of support in the U.S. Congress by both Democrats and Republicans to lift these tariffs on steel and aluminum and Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, made clear that it is all systems go to try to get the new NAFTA deal ratified in Canada.
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JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: Obviously these continued tariffs on steel and aluminum and our countermeasures represented significant barriers to moving forward with the new NAFTA agreement.
Now that we've had a full lift on these tariffs, we will work with the United States on timing for ratification. But we're very optimistic that we'll be able to move forward well in the coming weeks.
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NEWTON: Vice president Mike Pence will be here in Canada at the end of the month to try to pick up on some of that momentum. But really you can look at it as a trade reset for the Trump administration and taking on China, they decided to try and hold their allies a little closer.
They have held off on new tariffs for Europe, are trying to speak very quickly with Japan to try to see what could be done there. And, in the meantime, now that they have this settled and out of the way for both Mexico and Canada, they are hoping that that deal will be ratified in the next few months. Again, the reset is important as American businesses look to see what
the U.S.-China trade war will bring in the next few months. And taking some comfort that at least trade with allies can be on a more sure footing in the months to come -- Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.
ALLEN: Mexico's president reacted to the deal's announcement.
HOWELL: He explained this, "To strengthen trade and good understanding in North America, the Mexican government consulted with the Canadian government and promoted the trilateral dialogue."
Let's bring in Inderjeet Parmar, a professor of international politics at City University of London.
Good to have you.
INDERJEET PARMAR, CITY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you. Very good to be here.
HOWELL: So these tariffs on U.S. allies, was this an effective strategy by President Trump?
And do you think this replacement of NAFTA has a chance of being ratified in a politically --
HOWELL: -- divided Congress here in the United States?
PARMAR: That is the big problem now. I think the chances have improved because there is this kind of -- the taking away of the tariffs on aluminum and steel. And I think that will make a lot of people a bit happier.
But I think the Democrats and critics want environmental labor protections to be added in as well. So chances have improved but I think there are still some road blocks and I suspect that the Democrats will use those as leverage to try to extract concessions in other areas.
This will return the idea that Trump can't actually operate without congressional approval in all areas and I think this will strengthen the hand of Congress as a result.
HOWELL: On another front, the White House has decided to delay auto tariffs with the E.U. and Japan for six months while it continues to negotiate, keeping in mind these tariffs would be brought forward in the name of national security. The president targeting U.S. allies again.
The question to you, is this an effective strategy?
PARMAR: It could be. What it suggests is that the national security argument is actually hollow. There is no national security threat to the United States directly from the E.U. It was always a political move and it was a move which allowed the president to act in a unilateral fashion without any kind of congressional approval.
So it was a political tactic in order to try to show that President Trump was standing up for -- allegedly for American workers, taking on all comers and all competitors, including allies. And I think the fact that he's had to delay and with the move that he also made on Canada, China and Mexico suggests that he is beginning to realize something very fundamental, that the global interdependence of economies and the fact that the global economy, which goes into any kind of a tailspin with markets in turmoil, has an effect on his voting base as well.
And I think he is on the horns of a dilemma in that regard with his philosophy of economic nationalism.
HOWELL: And then finally I'd like your thoughts on the trade war currently playing out now between the United States and China. The tough talk from the White House, especially with the recent moves targeting the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seemed to put the brakes on efforts to reach a trade deal.
Do you think these hurdles can be smoothed over when Presidents Trump and Xi meet at the G20?
PARMAR: There is a possibility but the two sides are on the horns of a dilemma themselves. They are totally interdependent with the Chinese probably more dependent on the American market than the other way around. Hence you can see that the ramping up the tariff war for the American side has been greater.
But on the other hand, the two economies are interdependent and what happens in them affects the global economy and then that goes all the way back to the Deep South where the U.S. -- where the levels of industrial development and agricultural employment are very high. And those sectors are being affected there and that's going to affect President Trump's voting base.
So what we have is the fact that you have an economic nationalist philosophy, an attempt to subordinate the Chinese economy, which is having deep effects on markets and the voter base that brought Trump to power. I think he's seeing that his strategy of trying to do all that against all comers will backfire on him in 2020.
And I think that this is why he's having to recalibrate that strategy to try to salvage what his prospects for 2020.
HOWELL: Inderjeet Parmar joining us in London. Thank you.
ALLEN: We turn now to developments with the Russia investigation. Unsealed court documents are now providing a clearer picture of exactly how Michael Flynn helped it. Flynn was President Trump's first national security adviser and was fired after just three weeks.
HOWELL: CNN has also learned even as Flynn was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller, he was reaching out to at least one Republican critic of the investigation. Our Jim Acosta has this.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dodging questions from reporters, the president took to Twitter to poke holes in a stunning revelation in the Russia investigation, that one of Mr. Trump's attorneys was in contact with former national security adviser Michael Flynn about his cooperation with federal investigators.
The president tweeted: "It now seems that General Flynn was under investigation long before it was common knowledge. It would have been impossible for me to know this. But if that was the case and with me being one of two people who would become president, why was I not told, so that I could make a change?"
But that's not accurate. Less than one week after Mr. --
ACOSTA (voice-over): -- Trump was sworn into office, former acting attorney general Sally Yates told the White House that Flynn had lied to the vice president about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, a falsehood that could make the national security adviser vulnerable to blackmail.
Those lies were also cited as the reason why the president fired Flynn.
SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We had wanted to tell the White House as quickly as possible. To state the obvious, you don't want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians.
ACOSTA: The president also knew there were longstanding concerns about Flynn. Former president Barack Obama warned Mr. Trump about Flynn in the Oval Office just days after the 2016 election, something the White House conceded to reporters.
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's true that the president made it -- President Obama made it known that he wasn't exactly a fan of General Flynn's, which is -- frankly, shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, given that General Flynn had worked for President Obama, was an outspoken critic of President Obama's shortcomings.
ACOSTA: Though the White House denied there were any concerns about what Flynn might tell investigators.
(on camera): Is the White House concerned that General Flynn has damaging information about the president, his aides and associates about what occurred during the campaign with respect to Russia?
ACOSTA (voice-over): The president warned he's going after the investigators who worked on the Russia probe, tweeting: "My campaign for president was conclusively spied on. Nothing like this has ever happened in American politics, a really bad situation. Treason means long jail sentences and this was treason."
In an interview on FOX, Attorney General William Barr echoed the president's talking points.
BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: Witch hunt, hoax?
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I use what words I use and it was an investigation. But I think if I had been falsely accused, I would be comfortable saying it was a witch hunt.
ACOSTA: And Barr said he too wants to get to the bottom of whether anything illegal occurred.
BARR: If we're worried about foreign influence, for the very same reason, we should be worried about whether government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale. And so I'm not saying that happened. But I'm saying that we have to look at that.
ACOSTA: Barr also denied he lied to Congress when he testified about the findings in the special counsel's report.
BARR: I think it's a laughable charge. And I think it's largely being made to try to discredit me, partly because they may be concerned about the outcome of a review of what happened during the during the election.
ACOSTA: At a speech to realtors in Washington, the president continued his attacks on the press, accusing reporters of making up stories about tensions over his Iran policy.
TRUMP: Everything is, "a source says."
There is no source. The person doesn't exist. The person is not alive. It's bullshit.
ACOSTA: The president took issue with reports that there is friction behind the scenes among his advisers over Iran. Mr. Trump said his national security adviser John Bolton and a secretary of state Mike Pompeo will performing to his satisfaction. And in the meantime a senior official told CNN that the president's national security team is working to provide more evidence of Iran's military activity that has concerned advisers inside the White House. That evidence the official said should be released in the coming days -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
ALLEN: China is standing behind Iran and amid the rising tensions with the United States China's foreign minister reportedly reaffirmed support for the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal during a meeting with his Iranian counterpart.
And earlier Iran's foreign minister mocked the U.S. president online, saying the U.S. doesn't know what to think. Let's discuss this with CNN's Frederik Pleitgen live for us from Tehran.
We just heard Jim Acosta reference the president there over this issue. And there have been questions raised, reports over whether Trump is on the same page with his advisors. And there are reports that Iran's leaders believe the U.S. was preparing to attack them, which prompted Tehran to prepare for a strike, a potentially catastrophic misunderstanding.
What are you hearing from there about all of this in Tehran?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, misunderstanding, miscalculation; those are certainly the operative words, not just in Washington but this entire region as well. And I think that it is very interesting, very important and also something that could potentially be likely.
There haven't been any real comments coming out of the Iranian government on whether or not there was a miscalculation or what they were thinking. However, they have been saying from the very beginning that they believe that it was the U.S. that was escalating this situation.
One interesting nugget that we found came from Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, who came out a day and a half ago and he said we're not preparing for any sort of conflict, however, we need to be prepared if in fact a conflict starts.
So that could be an indication of maybe Iran thought the U.S. was ramping things up here in the Persian Gulf and maybe some of the military moves that the U.S. says that it had intercepted from the Iranians with the satellite images that we've been hearing about maybe it was --
PLEITGEN: -- in reaction to that. But again, there is still a lack of clarity as to how the situation escalated to the point that it did. It seems as though here the tensions are somewhat easing. Again, Iranians have been saying they don't want this conflict to escalate. And the supreme leader said that there is not going to be a war with the United States.
Now while tensions may be eased a little bit, they are still alive on social media, which, of course, is a lot less dangerous. President Trump blaming the situation, as he quite frequently does, on us, on the media, tweeting, quote, "With all of the fake and made up news out there, Iran can have no idea what is actually going on."
Of course he is referencing the fact that there is this perceived disconnect between himself and some of his advisers, specifically John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, and saying all those reports are fake news.
This led to trolling by Iran's foreign minister. And we have to tell our viewers that Iran's foreign minister has coined a term that he calls the B team, where he says that there are people trying to drive President Trump into a war that President Trump doesn't want, referencing Benjamin Netanyahu, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and John Bolton. That is the B team.
And he tweeted, and I quote, "With the #B Team doing one thing and real Donald Trump saying another thing, it is apparently the U.S. that doesn't know what is to think," he quotes.
"We in Iran have actually known what to think for millennia and about the U.S. since 1953," which, of course, is the time that Iran's president was overthrown and the shah was reinstated.
"At this point, that is certainly a good thing."
So Iranians essentially saying they have clarity, they have a clear position on all of this, they believe that it is the U.S. that, at this point, doesn't -- and referencing the fact that the Iranians believe that there is a certain degree of disconnect between President Trump and some of his most senior advisers.
ALLEN: And we can certainly understand why they put Saudi Arabia and Israel on the B team, can't we. Fred, thanks very much for your reporting.
HOWELL: The first polls close in Australia's nail biting election, where the top two candidates for prime minister are both highly unpopular. We'll take you there live ahead.
ALLEN: Also, a tornado touches down in the American heartland. We have the very latest on a severe weather system moving across the central U.S., which it will be doing for the next few days. Derek Van Dam will have that coming up.
ALLEN: We're going down under because the polls in some parts of Australia are now closed and vote counting in the national election is getting under way. Opposition Labor Party leader Bill Shorten is hoping to unseat the incumbent prime minister Scott Morrison. If Shorten wins, he would be the sixth leader in as many years.
HOWELL: Mr. Morrison has only been in office for eight months. There could be a record number of third-party votes in this close race, largely because Australia has mandatory voting.
To talk more, let's bring in Jamie Tarabay, a correspondent for "The New York Times," based in Sydney, Australia, joining us from Hong Kong.
Jamie, good to have you with us. So Australians don't seem to like either of these candidates. Let's talk about Morrison. Why do voters seem frustrated under his leadership?
JAMIE TARABAY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think more with Scott Morrison it is a reflection of the voter frustration with the fact that when the Liberal Party came into power, the person in charge was Malcolm Turnbull. And he was ousted in a leadership spill just last summer by a faction that was led over the party's disputes about climate change.
And so Scott Morrison, who was the immigration minister before he came in, has essentially basically been campaigning since August to win over the public. They know that there had to be an election by May this year.
And so really as soon as Morrison came in, Bill Shorten knew as well from the Labor side that they were all gunning for a May election and it has been a short campaign season. But both sides have really been campaigning since Malcolm Turnbull left office.
HOWELL: Just a bit more here about Shorten. Again unpopular. Tell us more just about the reasons. There is a history there. Reasons that voters see him a certain way.
TARABAY: Well, we've had a revolving door, as you said, within the Liberal Party. Three prime ministers in the six years that the Labor Party was in opposition. But before the Labor Party was in opposition, the prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was pushed out and replaced by Julia Gillard, who was also pushed out and replaced by Kevin Rudd.
And Bill Shorten was one of the people who was behind the scenes in both of those cases so he does have an element of untrustworthiness about him. Voters have been very frustrated. They elect a person as well as a party and to have that choice taken away from them is reflected in the way that both of these men have low personal approval ratings.
Bill Shorten, because of his background, has never really been able to escape that and by and large he is kind of hoping that the voters will vote for him, the politician, or will vote for Labor, the party, which is extremely diverse, is extremely representative, has about 50 percent female politicians within the cabinet and the party and has very, very popular politicians, some people like Penny Wong, who is the senator and most likely to be the first Asian Australian foreign minister should --
TARABAY: -- Labor win and I guess we'll find out by the end of the day.
HOWELL: Interesting, just the other day we were talking about Hawkie, as he was known there, once leader, so looking at this particular election quite a different circumstance.
I want to talk about the key issues driving this election, climate change and immigration. Climate change the lead issue there as opposed to immigration, which is a key issue here in the United States heading into the 2020 election.
Could you help our viewers understand why climate change is front and center in Australia?
TARABAY: Look, Australia is in so many ways the canary in the coal mine when it comes to the way the environment is being impacted by things like fossil fuels. Australia has had so much extreme weather, extreme drought, mass flooding.
And the Great Barrier Reef, which everyone sort of knows Australia by, there has been coral bleaching because of heat waves. So the impact of using fossil fuels and having coal mining, especially in Australia, that is one of the biggest exports that Australia relies on for its economy, it is a direct impact.
And Australians feel that very directly and keenly. And that was actually one of the biggest reasons why Malcolm Turnbull got pushed out of power last year. His party could not agree on a proper way to come together on an energy policy that they could sell amongst each other to the public.
And from the young voters particularly, this is such an issue for them because they really do see politicians gambling with their future. So the Labor Party has come out with a very ambitious platform in terms of when it comes to sort of complying with the Paris agreement and the missions targets.
And that has Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party arguing that it actually costs the economy more financially and Shorten and the Labor Party say that we pay for it now or we pay for it in the future.
So it is a real argument and a real division of ideas and a real inability to discuss a proper way forward on an issue that really impacts the entire country and, of course, the future generations.
HOWELL: It is interesting to see how Australia is taking this issue on. It is an issue that, whether you like it or not, at some point will be at your front door, already is, quite honestly. Jamie, thank you again for your time.
TARABAY: Thank you.
ALLEN: Severe weather strikes the American heartland. We'll have the latest on the powerful storm system ripping through the central U.S.
HOWELL: Plus U.S. farmers are leaving the -- feeling the pinch from tariffs as the trade war with China rages on. What farmers want the government to know. Stay with us.
(MUSIC PLAYING) ALLEN: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell with the headlines we're following for you.
ALLEN: We're following severe weather in the U.S. Midwest, tornadoes have been reported in several states.
ALLEN: The trade war between the --
ALLEN: -- U.S. and China shows no signs of easing up.
HOWELL: Tariffs on things like pork have left farmers facing an uncertain future. Our Martin Savidge went to the U.S. heartland to find out how farmers are dealing with their new reality.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mike Paustian rushes to plant corn before the next round of rain. He needs it for the mouths he and his wife have to feed.
So, these are your babies?
AMY PAUSTIAN, IOWA PORK FARMER: The babies. Ye, they grow rapidly.
SAVIDGE: Six hundred pigs are born on this farm every week. And every year, the Paustian takes 28,000 to market. A market now full of uncertainty with the trade war with China.
MIKE PAUSTIAN, IOWA PORK FARMER : Prices used to not change very much and now, they seem to fluctuate a lot.
SAVIDGE: China has been a growing market for U.S. farmers. But when the trade war broke out last year, U.S. pork was one of the first casualties. China adds more than 60 tax to the imported American pork effectively cutting off U.S. suppliers, enforcing changes on the farm.
PAUSTIAN: You maybe fix things instead of buying new things. And you maybe put off some purchases or you know remodeling of barns and stuff like that.
SAVIDGE: Can I ask you who you voted for?
PAUSTIAN: In the last election, I voted for Trump.
SAVIDGE: Like many farmers, Paustian feels a new trade deal with China is needed but he is not sure that tariffs are the way to go.
PAUSTIAN: I would say that maybe it wasn't the best way to approach it. But, you know, it's kind of a guessing game at this point.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fifteen billion dollars.
SAVIDGE: He is also not happy with the $15 billion relief Trump is promising farmers this year.
PAUSTIAN: That is a band-aid over a gaping wound. You know, what we really want is to just -- we want trade deals.
SAVIDGE: Though there is no end in sight to the trade war, there is a new and deadly player in the mix -- African swine fever.
This is very fatal and very contagious.
PAUSTIAN: Very fatal to pigs. Very contagious.
SAVIDGE: He would know, Paustian has a PhD in microbiology. The decease is reportedly decimating China's pig population which may force China to buy U.S. pork and because China is the world's largest consumer of pork could be a growing factor in overall trade negotiations.
PAUSTIAN: I would have to imagine it's -- it would put some pressure on them to get a deal, because let's face it everyone's lives would be easier for us and China if we could just work out a deal.
SAVIDGE: Without one, pork producers will spend more uncertain days trying to decide which of these little fellas goes to market and which ones stay home -- Martin Savidge, CNN, Walcott, Iowa.
HOWELL: Martin, thank you.
The red carpet has been rolled out at the Cannes Film Festival already underway on the French Riviera. So grab your popcorn, stick around. We're taking a look at some of the top films creating buzz this year.
HOWELL: Welcome back.
The 72nd Cannes Film Festival is under way and, as the stars arrive, change is blowing in the sea air.
ALLEN: The coveted grand prize remains as alluring as ever but some say that the famous festival is slowly evolving with the times. Here is Michael Holmes.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): If all the world's a stage, then for two weeks every year, the spotlight is firmly fixed on Cannes. The official poster for the 72nd Cannes Film Festival honors French director Agnes Varda, who passed away in March.
It is a nod to a new era of scrutiny for a festival that has been criticized in the past for its failure to adequately reflect women's involvement in the industry. This year four of the 21 films competing for the top Palme d'Or award are directed by women.
KELLY REICHARDT, CANNES 2019 JURY MEMBER: I'm also looking forward to the time when we come and we don't have to say the women directors and the women, as a woman. I'm looking forward to that time also. And I'm very honored to be here.
HOLMES (voice-over): Back on the red carpet, Hollywood's A-list are out in force this year.
Spoor horror movie, "The Dead Don't Die," features Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton and Iggy Pop. Taron Egerton stars in the Elton John biopic, "Rocketman," which
tracks the singer's early career. And then there's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood."
Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie star in this eagerly awaited Quentin Tarantino offering.
SCOTT ROXBOROUGH, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": This is the first time Tarantino is sort of here on his own in Cannes. It's also the first time he's made a film that is not independent.
He's always impacted the independent cinema scene; now he is a studio director for the first time. So those two issues will come into play. Also I think a lot of people will be asking Tarantino to reflect more on the Weinstein issue. He's talked a little bit about the situation, about what he knew, what he didn't know. But he hasn't really, for a lot of people, he hasn't really come clean about it.
HOLMES (voice-over): Cannes seeks to cater to all tastes and a very different movie experience is on offer with the "The Angry Birds Movie 2," which also launches at the festival.
Mock if you want but the original "The Angry Birds Movie" released in 2016 earned $350 million at the box office.
THUROP VAN ORMAN, DIRECTOR: We played around, we experimented and we found some really funny moments. The story, I think, is really strong. So all in all it's been an amazing experience. My expectations, I expect everyone to laugh. Yes, I think that it will be really good.
HOLMES (voice-over): The fact that "The Angry Birds Movie 2" is premiering on such a hallowed cinematic stage perhaps foreshadows wider changes at Cannes. ROXBOROUGH: I think the festival has to change and they acknowledge that it has to change. And I think this year it will be the first year that we'll see the first signs of how Cannes will change to make itself fit for the future.
HOLMES (voice-over): But traditionalists, fear not, for good or ill, the old guard aren't abandoning Cannes anytime soon -- Michael Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.
ALLEN: Let's talk more about it with our guest, film critic and commentator Richard Fitzwilliams.
Always good to have you here. I want to start with the films. I like that we just heard from Michael that there is a wide range of films. Certainly from "Angry Birds" to the zombie horror comedy --
ALLEN: -- that describes a plethora of films, doesn't it?
RICHARD FITZWILLIAMS, ROYALTY COMMENTATOR: Well, it certainly does but it's a very strange decision to have a zombie horror movie open the festival. Jim Jarmusch, the director, has made a lot of films which tend to be much more intimate. I think that it is supposed to be a political allegory and perhaps that was the reason for the choice.
It had mixed reviews; Cannes can make a disastrous decision; in 2014, they had "Grace of Monaco," one of the worst biopics ever that opened the festival. But here they're not shying away from controversy.
There is the issue of sexism; 82 actresses protested last year about the -- in the #MeToo movement and also the lack of female directors still remaining a problem. And Netflix has been shut out, which is highly controversial, as is the intended honoree Palme d'Or for actor Alain Delon, who has been involved in a variety of controversies.
ALLEN: Involving his treatment of women, one example.
FITZWILLIAMS: And also his involvement with the far right. There is little doubt he's had a distinguished career. He won best picture at Cannes in 1963. No doubt that he is one of France's top actors.
But nonetheless it does send a curious message to award him at this particular time, especially with #MeToo and #TimesUp movements being so important. And also the fact that he's expressed no remorse for previous views.
ALLEN: And we just heard in that report as well that the female directors wish they didn't have to point out the female directors that are there. But we must say that this year also marks the first time in the 72-year history that a black female director will have a film in the competition. What an achievement.
What do you know about her film and her?
FITZWILLIAMS: The film has received rave reviews. It is "Atlantis," Atlantic steals with the with the refugee crisis. Also in a very, very poetic way, it is a drama and Mati Diop has made history. She said herself that she was rather shocked that she is the first black female director to be nominated in this category.
But nonetheless, it is a move forward. Only two women have won best director at Cannes since 1946, so certainly something that ought to change. But also and this is very exciting, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," this would be dramatic because it is Tarantino's take in Hollywood at the time of the Sharon Tate murders.
And he is known for both his violence in his films and also the fact that he a very, very powerful director; 25 years ago after all, it was "Pulp Fiction," who could forget such a hip and cool movie?
ALLEN: I can't believe it was 25 years ago when that dance move came out. We all are still doing that. I want to ask you a followup to something that you said. We saw a report about Cannes evolving.
Why are they still blocking Netflix?
FITZWILLIAMS: Well, this is a very important issue. In France for a movie that is being streamed to go into mainstream cinemas, you have to wait for three years. In Hollywood, there is a movement that supports this. Even Spielberg has disapproved of the way that Hollywood has embraced Netflix.
Cannes is resolute that streamed movies have to wait. And Netflix has been banned -- this is two years running. So there are those who came that it is against the way things are moving in cinema. Those who claim on the other hand that it is representing that which is cinematic, literally with the large screen being essential.
I do tend toward the left. Although three years is a terribly long time in Hollywood. The window is 90 days to stream movies. But this debate will rage on. And Cannes is making a tough stand on it. Also the president of the jury totally agrees with us and the debate will continue. It will be fascinating to see what happens.
ALLEN: All right. Richard Fitzwilliams, a pleasure. Thank you so much.
FITZWILLIAMS: Thank you.
HOWELL: Still ahead, one thing not so fun, a remote island paradise that is not even safe from pollution. Up next, an eye-opening look at the scale of plastic in our oceans.
ALLEN: Just when you think how much more plastic can move on to islands around the world, we have another for you. The Cocos Keeling islands are marketed to tourists as Australia's last unspoiled paradise but a new study found just the opposite.
HOWELL: More than 400 million pieces of plastic washed up on the remote island chain and serve as a reminder of the staggering scale of pollution in the Earth's oceans. Our Karen Maginnis has this for you.
KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): A remote archipelago in the Indian Ocean, a stunning tropical paradise. But look closer. The Cocos Keeling Islands, home to just a few hundred people, come littered with staggering amounts of plastic trash, including nearly 1 million shoes and sandals, plus millions more straws, toothbrushes and bottles, weighing an estimated 238 metric tons.
JENNIFER LAVERS, UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA: Cocos is literally drowning in plastic. Which is really --
LAVERS: -- sad considering how incredibly remote these islands are.
MAGINNIS (voice-over): The islands are 1,000 kilometers southwest of Indonesia and more than 2,000 kilometers northwest of Australia. So when you see just how remote this place is and how much plastic is on it, you can imagine how much more is in the ocean.
LAVERS: Our estimates of how much debris is actually present on the islands is in excess of 414 million pieces of plastic debris, largely comprised of single-use everyday consumer items.
MAGINNIS (voice-over): Dr. Jennifer Lavers made headlines two years ago when she revealed that uninhabited Henderson Island in the South Pacific had the highest density of plastic debris anywhere on Earth.
The plastic trash of Cocos Keeling is less dense than on Henderson but the total volume is more than 10 times greater. Lavers compares these islands to canaries in a coal mine and urges that humans act on the warnings.
LAVERS: So this is a great opportunity for us to see ourselves in this debris and figure out how we can remove at least one of these items from our day to day activities. So if it is a plastic toothbrush that you use every morning when you brush your teeth, maybe think about switching to bamboo for example.
MAGINNIS (voice-over): And even though every bit helps, the scale of the problem is immense. Scientists think about 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean every year -- Karen Maginnis, CNN.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ALLEN: Boy, humans, we're not that great and that area is certainly one. Bamboo toothbrush. All right. More on our top stories. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: I'm George Howell. Right back after this.