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Interview With Barry Jenkins; Crisis in Afghanistan; Interview with Nanfu Wang. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 18, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I help Americans down there in battlefield, and now I need help. I need help as soon as possible.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The race to evacuate desperate Afghans. I speak to David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, about the
urgent need for massive airlift.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: There is nothing here but suffering, pain and suffering.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins on his first Emmy nomination for his epic "Underground Railroad."
NANFU WANG, DIRECTOR, "IN THE SAME BREATH": I don't know what happened, and -- but this is a -- this is the consequence and the risk that I knew I
was taken when making this film.
AMANPOUR: Hari Sreenivasan talks to director Nanfu Wang about her new film on misinformation and the COVID pandemic.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson is the first allied leader that
President Biden has called about the potential humanitarian catastrophe looming in Afghanistan and the urgent need to airlift out tens, if not
hundreds of thousands of vulnerable civilians who worked for the coalition effort there.
Meanwhile, deposed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is safe in the United Arab Emirates after fleeing the country just hours before the Taliban entered
the presidential palace in Kabul, while Taliban negotiators have been meeting with the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the former
government peace negotiator Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, this on a transition of power.
From the United States to Britain to the European Union, the political wrangling is under way over just how many desperate Afghans each country
will agree to take. As Prime Minister Johnson held an emergency session of Parliament in Westminster, an Afghan refugee and former interpreter
appealed to him to save his family, who are still in Kabul.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am in real trouble just because of my work.
Please, U.K. government, do not punish my family. Do not leave them behind, because that's going to cost loss of life. If anything happened to my
family, you know, how can I live that life after?
You know, it's really hard. It's really hard. I'm struggling. I'm still struggling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The story told in those few words there.
And, in a moment, I will ask David Miliband what the international community must do.
But, first, my guest says that he hopes the world doesn't look away from Afghanistan, which is in more need now than ever before. He is Saad
Mohseni, chief executive of the country's largest media organization, MOBY Media Group, which includes the famous Tolo TV organization, which is
operating despite the odds in Afghanistan right now.
Saad Mohseni, welcome back to the program.
Can I just first ask you, because you are involved also in some negotiations with Karzai and Abdullah, who are talking to the Taliban about
a transition of power, is there anything you can tell us about that? Is that moving forward, and what would it look like?
SAAD MOHSENI, CEO, MOBY GROUP: Well, it had legs before I Ashraf Ghani fled.
At the time, there was an opportunity for a two-week transition. The Taliban had pledged not to enter the city, because they also felt they
didn't have the capacity to keep a city of seven million people secure. But by fleeing, Ashraf Ghani triggered the collapse of the system.
So, today, I'm not sure how much more President Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah can do. But I think they're open to the idea of being helpful to
the Taliban. They met with Mukati (ph), one of the military commanders, two nights ago. They met with Anas Haqqani earlier today.
But I'm not sure how much leverage they have today, given that the Taliban have absolute control of the country.
AMANPOUR: Can I just quickly ask you, because you mentioned Ghani, I asked the Taliban spokesman what would have happened if he had been -- if they
had encountered him in the palace, and he said we would have secured his -- guaranteed his security as long as he wasn't trying to fight back or keep
And he did mention, look, we have been guaranteeing the security of the former president as we talk to them. Are you saying there was really a
chance, if Ghani had continued, because he made it a life-and-death choice for himself in terms of his first public statement, there was really a
chance that somehow this group of Taliban, which you know, I know, we have all covered before, was actually going to enter some kind of transitional
agreement, with all sorts of different factions of the Afghan people?
MOHSENI: From what I understand, Ashraf Ghani was promised by the international community that he would have a safe passage on the completion
of the transition period, which would have been two weeks or a week or 10 days.
But more important than that, as a president of a country, he should have taken into account the goodwill of his people and what was important for
his nation. And he had pledged many times that he would never leave the country.
But what he did was selfish, it was cowardly, and it did trigger what we're seeing today. I mean, the scenes of the airport could have been avoided if
Ashraf Ghani had stayed on. That's what I believe, at least.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you this then.
The Taliban has said that they will not interfere in the evacuation process. Yes, it's chaotic. Yes, there are a whole load of people who
clearly do not believe the guarantees of safety and the ability to continue as the Taliban have made publicly over the last 48 hours or more since they
have been in control.
Do you think this is a different Taliban? Do you think that they're trying? Because the U.S. also says that they're in touch with them, those inside
the airport are in touch with the Taliban outside the airport. And the process, messy as it is, is continuing. People are getting into the airport
and waiting, obviously, for an airlift.
MOHSENI: No, they're not, Christiane. They're not getting -- they're not able to get into the airport.
Perhaps the translators can, but members of the civil society and the media, people we're in touch with, cannot get close to the airport. There
are thousands and thousands of people outside the airport trying to get in.
So, unless you have special buses and special ways of getting into the airport through the military side, you cannot get in. That's not true. And
it's not the Taliban's fault. There's complete mayhem around the airport.
AMANPOUR: And what about their pledges of safety and security for everybody, amnesty for everybody, women can come to work, translators or
whoever they are, people who worked for the Afghan forces themselves, will -- there will be no revenge?
What are you hearing, not from inside Kabul, which is blanket covered with journalism, and thank goodness for that, but in the outlying provinces and
capitals and towns? We have heard reports of some protests, some demonstrations that have been met with force and injury.
MOHSENI: It's too early to tell.
I mean, we don't even know who's going to prevail. Can the real Taliban stand up, please? You have different factions. You have different wings.
You have the military council. You have the political council. Within each council, you have different identities and different wings.
So we're not even sure which part of the Taliban will prevail and how -- whether the moderates prevail or will the more conservative ones prevail?
So it's too early to tell. And, yes, in certain provinces, in certain times, like Spin Buldak, we hear of stories of hundreds of people getting
And certain other times, they have been better behaved. Much depends on the commander in charge. Much depends on the local force.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, to your business, and that is MOBY Media, Tolo News.
We have seen your female journalist back on the air interviewing a Taliban spokesman. I would say that's probably a first in the history of your
country. What are they telling you on the ground in their studios that they're allowed to do? And how are they allowed to work? And will -- I
mean, will you just keep facilitating their operations?
MOHSENI: Well, it's too early, again, to say what they're going to -- how they're going to treat the media sector, because, for now, they're too busy
trying to consolidate their hold over the city.
They even -- they haven't even elected a transitional government. So I think our time will come, and they're going to be a lot more restrictive.
The question is, how restrictive? And we will just have to wait and see.
AMANPOUR: Well, Saad Mohseni, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us with that reality check from the ground.
Now, when it comes to wait and see, as you have heard, as you have seen, thousands, tens, hundreds of thousands of Afghans are desperate to get out.
More than 300,000 have been associated with the American mission over its two decades in their country.
That is according to the International Rescue Committee. And its president and CEO, David Miliband, also a former British foreign secretary, is
joining me now from New York.
David Miliband, welcome back to the program.
Those are huge numbers, 300,000 just working with the United States, plenty, plenty more working with your country, NATO, and all the other
I mean, what do you think has to happen right now to guarantee their security and safety?
DAVID MILIBAND, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me on, Christiane.
Look, there are three humanitarian crises going on inside Afghanistan at the moment. The first is that there are 18 million people dependent on
humanitarian aid for survival, really. They -- it's a very poor country, as you know, 80 percent of the country facing drought, high levels of COVID.
So you have got a basic humanitarian issue. You have then got a half-a- million people joining the two-and-a-half million people who've been displaced by fighting, recently, half-a-million people displaced by
fighting. They're homeless. They're in Kabul or they're in Kandahar, they're elsewhere.
Then, third part of the humanitarian crisis, or the third crisis, is precisely the one that you refer to, which is that people who've had
promises made to them by U.S., U.K., others want to have those promises met. They're filling in forms. Some of them have filled in the form. Some
of them have got paperwork.
But you have seen the scenes outside Kabul Airport, as well as I have. And the lack of preparation is costing people dear. And these are people who
have good reason to believe, they think, that their lives are in danger. They're very afraid, and they want to have promises met.
So I think that all three of those humanitarian crises need to be addressed. And they need to be addressed with a high degree of urgency.
AMANPOUR: Do you think, knowing what you know about refugees and desperation all over the world, not to mention what you have just outlined
across Afghanistan -- the Biden administration has given a fixed date, August 31.
That's in about a week, where they say their airlift and their presence will be ended. Is it even remotely possible, in your view, and given the
historical past, to remove all these tens and hundreds of thousands of people who are desperate in a week?
MILIBAND: Well, let's understand, first of all, what the pledge is and then whether or not it can be met.
The pledge is for people to enter the process. And the visa processing system that the United States has, the so-called Priority 2 visas,
alongside the Special Immigrant Visas that are issued to people who worked directly for the U.S., it's going to take a couple of years for that to be
That's why you're hearing about third countries. That's why you're hearing about Guam, the U.S. air base. So, first of all, let's be clear that three
-- hundreds of thousands of people -- Canada's pledged 20,000. The U.K., I was very sad to see pledging 5,000 a year or 4,000 a year, which is really
nowhere near the scale of the issue.
These are people who are going to have a lot of paperwork facing them. And that needs to be expedited. There's no way you can keep people waiting for
two years, never mind for the two weeks that you're referring to.
Then, secondly, what can be done? Obviously, the deadline is contributing to the sense of panic. And, as you say, 10, 12 days away, it's very hard to
see how that's going to be achieved, because you have very large numbers of people, not just in Kabul, but elsewhere, who are fearful.
And I suppose that brings us back to the conversation you just had with Saad Mohseni. What counts is, what are the actions, the deeds of the new
governing authority in Afghanistan? Because on a staff call that I had this morning, that's the -- that's the issue facing the 1, 700 International
Rescue Committee staff across Afghanistan.
They want to know what their country is going to be like to live in the next few years.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, you're right. It's two weeks, not one week, as I said.
So, to that point, I just want to play a little bit our reporter Clarissa Ward in Kabul, who spoke to somebody who actually has his papers. He has
his authorizations and his visa. Just listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You have a green card?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. See, this is my green card.
WARD: This is your green card.
He's showing me a picture right now of his green card. That's his green card.
So, did you try to get in to the airport?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, I did.
WARD: And what did the Taliban say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taliban say, we don't know. Just go. We don't want to try to let you end like this. They say, we don't have flights.
WARD: They don't have flights?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, of course, David Miliband, that's a green card. We don't really know whether he has one of these special visas.
But it does go to the bureaucracy and the -- just kind of the mayhem inside and outside the airport.
MILIBAND: It certainly does.
First of all, I mean, Clarissa Ward, what a heroine. I mean, she's doing amazing journalism. You have done it before in previous war zones. She is a
worthy heir to you, Christiane, really amazing reporting.
On the substantive issue, this is where diplomacy matters. This is where political muscle matters. Clearly, the Taliban have checkpoints. But,
clearly, they are trying to restore order in the capital.
This is where the U.S., Russia, China, the whole international system actually has a common interest. And it's time to make diplomatic and
political muscle felt.
I'm very concerned that military withdrawal is going to be followed by humanitarian, diplomatic and political withdrawal as well. The U.K. is
planning to cut its aid budget from $80 million a year to $20 million a year for Afghanistan. I mean, that's not a way to promote stability in the
And it's very, very important that there isn't a further rush to the humanitarian and political and diplomatic exits, because that will only
compound the problems that you're seeing.
AMANPOUR: David Miliband, you have just said you're very deeply regretful that your own country -- you were foreign secretary -- has only pledged
5,000 over several years, 5,000 a year for a period. And it's clearly only a drop in the ocean.
I wonder. Obviously, all your countries are in a completely different world in terms of refugees and immigration and migration. It's just really hard
line now from the United States, to Britain to elsewhere, much different than it was, let's say, back in Vietnam. A huge amount has been made of the
parallels or not between the fall of Saigon and the fall of Kabul.
But when it comes to refugees, I just want to read you some of the statistics and see if you can weigh in on this. So, there have been huge
evacuations. The last huge one was by India, more than 110,000 of its nationals from Kuwait after Saddam Hussein invaded Iraq. That was back in
August of 1990.
But, before that, the United States evacuated more than 50,000 Vietnamese from Saigon in April 1975. And, at one point, even more incredible, Israel
extracted 14,000 Jews from Ethiopia in just 36 hours in 1991.
It is a massive undertaking. And, of course, in the end, the United States ended up taking a lot more. However, it required the president, Gerald
Ford, to create an interagency task force for the transport, for the processing to a third country, as you had mentioned earlier. In this case,
it was Guam, which agreed to host.
It doesn't seem that that process is under way right now, or at least not in any way that we can see it, and particularly this third country option,
rather than what you said, leave them hanging around waiting at the airport or outside.
MILIBAND: Well, you're making a very important point. This is all about grip. It's about political grip and political clarity.
To be fair to Gerald Ford, he did do that. To be fair to Jimmy Carter, and he passed the 1980 Refugee Act in America. And then Ronald Reagan actually
admitted more refugees, I think, than any other American president.
Now, of course, we do have contemporary examples of governments taking an enlightened view. I'm thinking of Mrs. Merkel in Germany in 2015-'16, where
she got political flak for at the time, but which actually has been shown to be a wise approach.
I would say this does need a high degree of political grip. It needs international coordination, because it's not just the U.S. on its own. But
those countries that intervened in Afghanistan do have a debt of honor to people that they made promises to.
And the idea that bureaucracy and form-filling is going to leave people like the gentleman that you have just featured with a green card, with what
he believes to be a sacred promise, who can't get to the airport, and never mind his family -- there are stories in the U.S. media about people who've
gone back to try to -- try and get their families. These are U.S. citizens who can't get out.
So this clearly needs the kind of centralized grip that you're talking about. But it also needs the coordination across the global system. And
that's going to take real effort.
But unless the U.S. leads, it's going to have more of the kind of scenes that we're seeing at the moment.
AMANPOUR: So, you talk wistfully a little bit about the moral imperative. And we have not heard very much from our governments about the moral
imperative to those people who have helped them so much and put their lives on the line to help on the international forces and, of course, their own
So what I want to ask you now, as a former foreign secretary now, does -- is it in the world's interest to engage with the Taliban and put down the
demands that hold them accountable to the promises they're making verbally in order to try to affect their behavior, or is it keep them at bay, don't
recognize them, treat them as the pariahs that they were back in the '90s, and then they do whatever they want, and the Afghans are at their mercy?
In other words, do you see any virtue in taking a gamble on trying to bring them inside the tent?
MILIBAND: Well, I'm not just -- one thing, I'm not wistful for the 1970s.
But I do believe that it's realistic and hardheaded to say that, if you leave humanitarian crisis untended, it will lead to political instability,
not just in the country in which it's happening, but next door and beyond.
And anyone who believes that Afghanistan's problems are going to remain within Afghanistan has got another thing coming. Just talk to any of the
Pakistani commentators or politicians or businesspeople, and you will know what I'm talking about.
On the wider question, obviously, that is a -- there's a diplomatic element to that. But I want to approach this from a humanitarian angle. The
International Rescue Committee has worked in Afghanistan since 1988. We have worked in areas controlled by the Taliban, in areas controlled
previously by the government.
We are believers that you have to engage on the part, on behalf of the people that you are serving. And it seems to me that there needs to be
engagement with the realities that exist in Afghanistan today. One of those realities is a new regime in the making.
It's very important. And one of the things I said as foreign secretary again and again, including to you, and which tragically has never been
properly followed up, is that a political settlement inside Afghanistan would never work unless there was a regional political settlement to
complement it involving Pakistan, involving China, involving Russia, also involving India, actually.
There remains a massive need for a united front to be found. The Afghan Study Group, on which I sat, and which reported in February and predicted
some of what we have seen over the last few months, that Study Group emphasized that no nation had an interest in instability in Afghanistan,
and it was vital to find the highest common factor between the different countries to promote stability in that country.
That remains essential today for diplomacy, and it remains essential as one thinks about engagement with the new government.
AMANPOUR: You know, I hear you, and I understand what you're saying.
I worry, though, because that would take a huge amount of clarity, a huge amount of honesty, a huge amount of putting that sort of good beyond, I
guess, national or narrow self-interest.
The one thing we have heard since the collapse of the army and of the government in Afghanistan is that the West, which had invested in that
country for two decades, clearly didn't know what was going on, on the ground or had had the wool pulled over their eyes somewhere or another.
Does that worry you, particularly now with this even more Herculean task ahead in the way which you have outlined to try to have a major global
effort to prevent this being even worse than it is now?
MILIBAND: Well, I was calling for a regional effort, which would be supported by the U.N.
I think it's important that the -- Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the U.N., said that the U.N. will stay. The International Rescue
Committee is going to be staying. Our 1, 700 staff wants to do their own nation-building. It's not just us who are building the nation. It's Afghans
who are building the nation, but they need our support.
And I think there's clearly an acute crisis in Kabul, in other parts of the country today, and that needs to be addressed. And there are some
responsibilities for the outside world. But there's also going to be lesson-learning.
And one of the lessons that I want to put on the table is that there needs to be a coordinated regional approach with all those with an interest. That
is the way I would answer the engagement question. And you describe it as Herculean. I wish, Christiane, you could hear the staff meeting we had this
morning, with Afghan staff speaking to International Rescue Committee staff around the world about the passion they have for continuing their work in
their own country, in their own communities.
They're tied there by parents, by family, by relatives. They're not going to get out. And they need continued engagement from the outside world. We
can't allow a military withdrawal to become an excuse for the humanitarian and political withdrawal, which will do further damage, compound the
damage. And that's the fear I have.
AMANPOUR: And, of course, as they withdrew, President Biden, all countries have said they will keep that humanitarian and political involvement there,
and not withdraw that.
We will see how it pans out.
David Miliband, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us on this important night.
Now, the historic brutality of the Taliban is a reminder of, in fact, what humans are capable of. And it's the historic brutality of slavery in
America that we look at next.
The Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins' "Underground Railroad" has been streaming since May, and has just received seven Emmy nominations,
including best director of a limited series for Jenkins himself.
The series is based on the acclaimed 2016 novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead. And it tells the story of a young girl, Cora, who escapes a
Georgia plantation through a network of secret routes.
Here's a clip from the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Man lost my mom, then me. And no way he ever giving up on finding me.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: There's anger in you. It will fuel you, yes.
It's the worst kind of feeling, the worst kind.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The savagery that man is capable of when he believes his cause to be just.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And Barry Jenkins is joining me now from Los Angeles.
Welcome to the program, Barry Jenkins.
I guess I have to start by asking you, because it's all over and you can't escape it, the terrible stories and the risks of young girls, young boys in
Afghanistan being dragooned back into a certain sort of indentured servitude, sexual slavery and trafficking, I wonder if you have been
thinking at all about that, as we're going to be talking about your series.
BARRY JENKINS, CREATOR AND DIRECTOR, "THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD": I have definitely been thinking about it.
It's kind of all one can think about. The world seems to just continue to fall back on the cycles of abuse and subjugation and degradation. And
what's happening across the ocean right now is just quite terrible.
AMANPOUR: So, congratulations on the Emmy nominations. That is seven. They are your first, despite your Oscar, best director for a limited series.
It took you a long time to do this, about five years since you approached Colson Whitehead and you decided you wanted to do this. You have said that
film is a visual language and it's your language. And boy, does it speak loudly across these 10 episodes.
Tell me about that. You have said you believe visuals and your language can create empathy. Was that your first objective, empathy?
JENKINS: Well, it was my first objective, empathy and identification.
I feel like my ancestors' stories have been extremely well-covered in academic journals, in journalism, and different kinds of periodicals. But
we're watching more than we're reading these days. And some of these stories, some of this struggle, some of these lessons that the world can
learn from the ordeal of my ancestors has been pushed to the periphery or is being lost to time.
And so I did feel like giving them an imagistic treatment, creating these visuals, depicting them in sounds and images was one of the best ways I
could honor their legacy.
AMANPOUR: The first episode is a really brutal watch. And it changes throughout. And it's the story, obviously, of Cora as she progresses
through the U.S.
But the first is very, very brutal. And I kept thinking of your mission statement about empathy, about visuals, about setting the scene and
building the story. And I wonder how hard it was for you, but also for your actors, and particularly some of the younger actors. And there plenty of
How did they cope with being confronted? I mean, we have got a scene, the lynching scene, the whipping scene, the burning scene, in the way the white
owners disrupt the birthday, of an old man on their plantation, a slave himself, just out of pure mean-spirited power, then end up whipping Cora
and a small boy.
They're very hard, not just to watch, but presumably to be part of. You had therapists on set. How did you use them?
JENKINS: Yes, it was -- one, it was a collective experience of telling a story and creating these images.
And I think we all knew that we were there for the same purpose. Both the people who had the trauma visited upon them, the actors who must withstand
that, and the actors, unfortunately, who must commit those traumas, you're all there for the same purpose.
And, as you say, we had a therapist on set. We also had an intimacy coordinator on set. Any time we were dealing with these very knotty images,
we understood that we were there to unpack the images, but not allow the images to unpack us.
I think having that same energy would hopefully extend to the audience as well, and when they viewed those images, the image -- the energy that we
put into them, that would be very clear.
And so it was one of those things where everyone understood that our emotional well-being or our intellectual well-being, our mental health was
just as important as creating the art. And so, if someone wanted to stop, they could, and, collectively, we would all rally around that person, which
didn't happen too often, but knowing the safety that was there I think made everyone feel safe.
It's interesting, the begins this Georgia episode where these aspects of brutality are very clear. It is very fact-based depiction of what this time
would be, causing the tons of research, and there is nothing depicted in the episode that you can't find in the research from that time.
And yet, as I was making the show, I was trying to decide what should I show and what would I tell. And this buzz word, from the last time I spoke
to you, this buzz word was very prevalent, make America great again. It's just everywhere. It was everywhere. You couldn't escape it and this idea of
again, it almost implied that in the past America was better, America was undoubtedly great without filtering. And I thought, oh, in order to embrace
a message like that, you must clearly just have a blind spot or willfully be ignoring so many things in American history and I felt it was important
to show those things in the outset of the episode.
AMANPOUR: I mean, indeed. And you also talk about the MAGA hats and the red and all the rest. So, you were filming in Georgia. It takes place at
least, you know, some in Georgia. And you talk about comments that you have received that people just wish that you didn't have to tell that story
about what America was back then.
JENKINS: Yes. It was kind of a head trip. You know, we didn't intend to film the entire show in the State of Georgia but because of logistics and
things like that, we ended up filming the entire show in the State of Georgia. And it was -- you know, our crew, because of the State of Georgia,
I'm pretty sure it was filled with people across the spectrum that not everyone politically thought the same and yet, still everyone was united
around creating this work of art. But then you would be out in the world and you would very clearly see, as your intro teed up, that maybe not
everyone around me is ready for these images or wants to acknowledge them. And you have, I think, the role of art, you know, is to speak truth.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to talk about it is called "Underground Railroad." but it is magical realism in the fact that you do show an underground
railroad but that is sort of metaphorical. Nonetheless, Cora, she, you know, goes through the process and she -- here's a little clip, a little
excerpt from her asking about who actually gets to get on to this railroad?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THUSO MBEDU: Everybody keep telling me how special I am. What good is a railroad if only special folk can take it? What good is a farm full of
freedom if only special folk can tell it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So that's a very pointed question. Tell us what you were saying in that instance. And of course, it obviously calls some white head, but
using a railroad, which it wasn't really in real life.
JENKINS: Yes. I think the first part of the question, I think that we -- if only the privileged people in any class or strata or group of people are
receiving the benefits of empathy, the benefits of abolition, the benefits of anything, then are we truly saving any other people? Now, I think the
same thing could be said, you know, we're both obviously obsessed with the current events of the day. And in Afghanistan right now where -- well, we
had to airlift, you know, the people who helped us in these military operations. And yet, what about all the people, you know, on the ground
there who have been through 20 years of these promises, you know, of what life could be and what life should be and now, have been left behind to now
undergo another just completely metamorphosis of what their everyday life is.
And so, I think that's what that conversation was about. I thought it would be important to object that. In the story about all these black people, you
assume that they're all just very happy to have any individual's freedom. I love that Cora, either receiving the blessings of the underground railroad
is wondering what good is it if only I can receive the blessings of this underground railroad. It reminds me of "12 Years A Slave" and she would
tell this character, Solomon Northup, gets to leave the plantation while Patsey is left behind. And I always thought, you know, this is a very sad
moment. Yes, I'm thankful for his freedom but about hers?
As far the magical realism, it's interesting, I love that you have your quote (ph), it's about -- you know, it's about a truthful interpretation or
a neutral interpretation. I think this idea of fact and fiction is a very hard one to reconcile because so many of these facts that we accept have
been given to us by the people in power.
I went to grade school in the U.S. And in any textbook, it described slavery as this condition of conscripted labor. I would have learned more
about actual American history or the actual conditions of my ancestors by reading the fiction of Tony Morris than I did from reading textbook, the
fact-based textbooks that were given to me by the government.
And so, I think even though there's magical realism in the book and in the show, I think it does arrive in a very truthful depiction of the experience
of my ancestors, and that to me is much more important.
AMANPOUR: And I think, finally, I really want to focus on your, I think, tribute to parenting and you have talked about parenting a lot. There is a
soundbite or a -- you know, Cora says, birth was the last thing my mama gave me. And then, of course, her mother left. She escaped. And you've
described parenting during slavery as the greatest act of collective parenting the world has ever seen. Tell me what you were trying to tell us
JENKINS: I think for you and I to have this conversation right now, for me to sit here and have this conversation with you, despite the horrors that
we witnessed in the first episode of the show, which are just a fraction of the horrors that my ancestors endured, and yet, that generation of people -
- because, again, the children were constantly under assault, the families were constantly getting torn asunder, I think that somehow these people
felt -- retained the will to live.
I think the only way this could happen is this act of collective parenting. A child would be born and then separated from its birth mother and father
and then flown far to a different plantation. Somehow those groups would come together and somehow these people will protect the children. I think
the fact of any black artist politicians, any black citizens existence on the world right now is through this act of collective parenting.
And when we watch these narratives, we often don't see children as well (INAUDIBLE) populate with children everywhere, it just really shows that
this sacrifice that we're talking about, it wasn't a sacrifice of death, it was a sacrifice of living and protecting all these children.
AMANPOUR: It is really an amazing story. Congratulations, Barry Jenkins, and of course, on the seven Emmy nominations. And we will be watching for
that. Thank you very much for being with us.
And now, we turn to the pandemic with a look back at how it all began. So, how did the Chinese government manage to turn a cover up in Wuhan into a
triumph for the communist party? That is the question acclaimed Chinese filmmaker, Nanfu Wang, tries to answer in her documentary, "In the Same
And here she is speaking to Hari Sreenivasan about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Nanfu Wang, thanks for joining us.
Your film takes a look at how arguably the two most powerful nations on the planet dealt with this virus. Why intertwine these two?
NANFU WANG, DIRECTOR, "IN THE SAME BREATH": Because I've seen the problems in both societies. And I am Chinese citizen. And I'm U.S. permanent
resident. It is unfortunate, but I experienced the outbreak twice. Once in January, when I was in China and then again in March, when I was in the
U.S. It was shocking and depressing for me to see the eerie and strange payroll in the two so-called politically and ideologically completely
different societies making the same mistakes.
SREENIVASAN: You were able to marshal -- you know, I don't know how you did it, but you've got a bunch of talented videographers to get access into
hospitals Wuhan. So, we see some of those first days and these really tragic stories. I mean, they are essentially watching people suffer and, in
some cases, die. And there is a story in there, a character that emerges, a father who is on the 12th floor and his son is in much worse condition on a
lower floor. Tell us a little bit about that.
WANG: It was captured by accident. When we start filming in the hospital, I quickly realized that both the camera people sometimes and definitely all
the patients and the employees of the hospital would self-sensor. They would not want to film something that is remotely sensitive. And so, I told
the camera people, don't stop filming. Keep the camera rolling. That is my assignment. Even when you take a break, keep it filming. And then, this guy
came and you see the entire conversation unfold.
It was 20 minutes, his visit to his son. It was the last time he saw his son. He was infected because he was taking care of his son. And his son was
dying. But he was been able to discharge from the hospital. But that was the last moment he will see him. It was heartbreaking because it was at the
time when the government said that there is no human-to-human transmission. And his story was the evidence, to me, that he got infected from his son.
And it was very early.
SREENIVASAN: According to the timeline of that family, the son got sick in November, which for most of the U.S., we don't think of the start of the
coronavirus that early. When you were talking about how difficult it is to get people to talk to you at least in the hospital, we have a clip of that.
Let's take a quick look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I talk to you for a minute?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Talk? Did the hospital let you in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course. How else could I get in?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm afraid to talk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't have freedom of speech.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll talk to you only if the hospital administration is here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was allowed in. You can trust me. I've been filming on the 5th floor for several days.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't believe you. I can't talk unless the head nurse is here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you briefly introduce yourself?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the camera on?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turn it off. I'm an employee of the hospital. I don't know what else to say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You must have some feelings.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Complicated feelings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turn off the camera.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: Why do you think they are so reluctant to speak to your camera person?
WANG: On January 1st there were eight doctors being punished for "spreading rumors" about a virus and that became national news. So, a lot
of healthcare workers, they were warned by both their hospital and, you know, in China all the hospitals, the state-owned hospitals, except for
private clinic, has a party branch in the hospital and that manages the entire hospital.
So, they all have documents and, you know, already told every healthcare workers, doctors, nurses they couldn't speak. And so, I wasn't surprised
that they would be afraid for speaking out.
SREENIVASAN: So, what happened to those doctors? I mean, in the United States we call them whistleblowers because they were trying to ring the
WANG: One of the most unknown among the eight doctors is Dr. Li Wenliang. He was punished on January 1st where he signed a document saying, I
admitted that I made a mistake. It was a rumor. It was not real. And then, he passed away shortly in February, early February, from coronavirus, from
SREENIVASAN: You have footage in your documentary of a private clinic and it shows patients coming in one after the other over several days with the
symptoms that we know now are related to the coronavirus. When you saw that footage what went through your mind? Because during this time, the Chinese
government says it is not being passed from people to people.
WANG: I was astonished. I already knew how it happened because a clinic owner told me and she told me that among the patients they saw in December,
several of them died of COVID. And including her husband too, who got infected from the patients that he saw. And it was in late December. But it
was story that she told me. So, I wasn't seeing it.
So, when I finally got ahold of the surveillance footage in her clinic and I just reviewed quickly, I scrolled through day by day in Decembers, and
the amount of people coming in some cases were with, you know, young girl saying that, I have pain in my chest. It's been few days and I'm really
nervous that I'm going to die. And the clinic owner said, don't worry, don't worry, you are so young you won't die. And dismissed her. She left.
And I kept wondering where are these people? What happened to them? And I'm seeing dozens of those people. What happened to them?
SREENIVASAN: One of the things that's intriguing to me is the way that you found some of the subjects for this film is you went through social media
where people are posting their names, their faces, their phone numbers, and even their x-rays. Why were they doing that?
WANG: So, that was what compelled me to start making this film. Is there was a forum, social media forum, the (INAUDIBLE) would be cry for help.
COVID patients crying for help. And one night, when the forum first started, I noticed -- because we were just monitoring everything on the
internet. We knew it was going to be deleted right away. So, I noticed the forum and I saw just a very quickly there were hundreds and then soon
thousands of people posting. And they were posting I.D., which is the most sensitive thing and medical records.
All they wanted is to show, hey, I'm real and I'm stick. This is the proof that I'm real. This is my home address. This is my telephone number. This
is my skin. This is my medical records. But I couldn't get treatment. Please help me. And lot of them were hoping because they were standing in
line at hospital. They've called every hotline they could. And they were hoping by putting all this information on the internet, it would attract
attention, it would put pressure on the government, on the local government, state government to give them treatment. And that didn't
So, I was afraid that this is going to be deleted next day. That night, I stayed up all night, archived 1,500 people. And we end up calling 500 of
them over the next days and the weeks. And by the time, lot of people when we called -- because the information was really detailed. Phone number, who
is sick, how the person sick, when the symptoms started, what kind of effort they have made to get help and treatment. By the time we called,
it's like -- first thing we always say is, we saw your post, how is your dad or how is your wife? And often times, the person responses that he
already passed away.
SREENIVASAN: You have a montage of state television news anchors saying literally verbatim exactly the same script over and over again about how
this virus is not something really to fear. And at the same time, you have got the state cleaning up social media instances of video. So, is it
possible that the Chinese government did not know the extent to which coronavirus was rampant in the streets of Wuhan?
WANG: I don't think there is a possibility that the Chinese government didn't know. Because all this media in China is owned by the state. And the
social media is managed by the government censures. And then in the film, you will see how early the government knew. And the fact that multiple
dozens of reporters read the same report, the same news word by word, about eight people being punished for spreading rumor, it is a joke now, people
among activists in China will say, if the government stands out and tell you, that is a rumor, most likely that is a truth because why would they
try to tell you, don't spread rumor.
And if you look at the timeline, the news came from the central government. It is all across the local broadcast in China. It was not a local decision.
And of course, all the local media is not -- in China is managed by the state as well.
SREENIVASAN: While this is all happening, the Chinese government is having basically party conferences and not talking about the virus. They are
essentially having the equivalent of super spreader events, right? But they aren't talking about it. And why do you think that was?
WANG: I think as easy to think why the U.S. also, for a while, for weeks said nothing is wrong, everything is going away. They are having press
conferences, meetings just as China is. It is sad. But what I think is both governments prioritized preserve its image of the government, of the
leaders over the public interest of ordinary people, their safety and health.
SREENIVASAN: You have a young man who is grieving for his dad and he talks about how this experience has helped him understand the value of freedom of
speech. And you juxtapose that in the film with the protests that were happening here in the United States. People outside of capitals, outside of
places who did not want to wear masks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WANG (voiceover): As I watched the protesters in America, I thought about him. He said tens of thousands died in China because there was no freedom
of speech. I wondered what he would think if he could see what was happening here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like the American government is trying to be more like China, which is a communist country. And I feel like being free
is what separates us from other countries.
WANG (voiceover): Nine years ago, when I moved to the U.S., it was the idea of freedom that attracted me. I had never seen a protest until I came
to the U.S. The closest thing to a protest I had ever seen in China was six people standing on the side of the road. And all of them ended up in
prison. Nobody would look at these people and say that they are free. But is this what freedom looks like?
CROWD: USA. USA. USA.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE). You can't tell me to leave.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not wearing a mask.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right here. I got my mask under my --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: I'm also assuming that a footage like that made its way to Chinese state media. And I wonder what does your mom, what do your
relatives think when they see those kinds of clips?
WANG: So, all these images of protest or chaos in the U.S. or, you know, the amount of death and COVID cases, it was reported endlessly in China.
And all people what they saw is framed by the state media, by the government. So, my mom would watch the news and read the news about the
U.S. with the context of what the reporter is framing it. So, my mom would call me and say, oh, wow, look at the U.S. and how horrible it is. Come
back to China. China is much better. And China is more superior.
Everybody would say, you know, it turns out that U.S. is not that powerful at all. It turns out that U.S.'s system didn't work and it turns out our
system is the best system. And that is what's heartbreaking to me. Because I see how the situation has been taken advantage by the Chinese propaganda.
SREENIVASAN: You have footage here that I want to show in a clip of doctors and nurses lined up outside hospitals basically declaring victory
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: We sing in praise of our beloved motherland, a propitious and strong nation.
WANG: I've seen ceremonies like this play out over and over after major disasters in China. People emerge from the trauma of these events with even
stronger patriotic sentiment than before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: So, my question to you is, the misinformation does work in the United States. The propaganda does work in China. Several of the people
that you spoke to who are grieving, who personally lost somebody in their family that they love, right, people in the United States who have a lot to
lose, and yet, they are the ones that are believing in this alternate reality. Why do you think that is?
WANG: I asked myself that question throughout making most of the film and continue asking that after. Because it is perplexing. Why would people act
against their own self interests? I think it has to come to ideology. And if a society is unjust, if the distribution of information and wealth is
uneven, then people form flawed ideology. And flawed ideology is result of years and decades of propaganda.
So, that flawed ideology prevented them from thinking or seeing their action as actually against their own interest. That is only explanation I
could have think of, but it is perplexing.
SREENIVASAN: You point out in the film that people who do speak up face real palpable danger. Some of them disappear, never to be heard from again.
Some were arrested. Some were harassed. And you have made multiple films now critical of China. Are you concerned for your own safety or the safety
of your family who still lives there?
WANG: My family. I'm very, very concerned for my family because they are the ones who are still in China and they are the ones every time after my
film came out, they received harassment and threats. And even for "In the Same Breath," months ago, the police had interrogated my family, everyone.
My mom, my brother and my uncle and threatened them. Is -- threatening them is to try to threaten me and tell me, don't do something, or they would
arrest them. And each time the threat gets more real.
So. it is a hard decision on my end. I -- it is -- I don't have -- I don't know what to do. And I don't know what will happen. But this is the
consequence and that risk that I knew I was taking when making this film or any film about China.
SREENIVASAN: The film is called "In the Same Breath." Nanfu Want, thanks so much for joining us.
WANG: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thanks for watching and good-bye from