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Blue Bayou; Interview With U.N. High Commissioner For Refugees Filippo Grandi; Interview With European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen; Interview With Justin Chon; Interview With Singer Yola. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 20, 2021 - 13:00:00 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.
URSULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: One of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable. So we want to know
what happened and why.
AMANPOUR: World leaders gathered in New York, and I talk to the European Commission president about Europe's fury with Biden and how best to make up
to battle climate change and COVID.
FILIPPO GRANDI, UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES: Many of them are sleeping out of -- in the open. Food is very scarce in the country.
AMANPOUR: Just back from Afghanistan, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees joins me with a dire warning: Act now or face an even bigger
JUSTIN CHON, WRITER/DIRECTOR/ACTOR: I was brought here when I was three. I have been here for over 30 years.
AMANPOUR: Facing deportation from the country you call home. Writer, director and actor Justin Chon talks to Hari Sreenivasan but his new film,
Finally, from Bristol, England to Nashville, Tennessee, singing sensation Yola joins me.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The U.N. General Assembly week is kicking off in New York.
After a virtual event last year, world leaders are now gathering face to face. And top of the agenda are COVID and climate. But democratic nations,
which had hoped the Biden administration would take longtime alliances more seriously than Trump did, are perhaps asking now, is the honeymoon over?
On the eve of this event, the United States, Australia and Britain, so- called AUKUS, have stabbed France in the back. Those are the words of its foreign minister. And here's how he puts it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): There has been lying duplicity, a major breach of trust, and contempt. This will not
due. Things are not going well between us. They are not going well at all.
It means there's a crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: France is furious with Washington for striking a deal to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, cutting out Paris, which had the
deal in the first place.
Now a trade deal between the E.U. and Australia is in doubt. China is furious that these vessels are coming to its region. And Beijing could seek
to exploit these divisions in the Western alliance.
To discuss this and the consequences, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen joined me for an exclusive interview from New York.
AMANPOUR: Madam President, welcome to our program.
VON DER LEYEN: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: There you are at the beginning of UNGA, and it's clearly overshadowed by this AUKUS, as we have all been talking about for the last
You have already seen the French recall their key ambassadors over this issue, and China again saying, we don't want nuclear technology in our
backyard, and raising some very serious issues.
Just on the E.U.-Australia cancellation, why did that happen?
VON DER LEYEN: Well, there are a lot of open questions that have to be answered.
And, therefore, I mean, one of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable. So, we want to know what happened and why.
And, therefore, you, first of all, clarify that before you keep on going with business as usual.
AMANPOUR: Do you feel that Europe has been dissed, that, yet again, the United States has not consulted you on an important move after Afghanistan,
and that, most importantly, it might create division and allow China to seek division between new allies?
Are you worried about that?
VON DER LEYEN: Well, I can very well understand the disappointment in Europe about the way this issue was handled.
We're friends and allies. And friends and allies, partners, talk to each other. And they talk to each other mainly on an issue of common interest.
So this is clearly -- this did clearly not happen. And I think we need to talk.
But on the other hand, we also have, as you mentioned, many important topics on our global agenda where we're working side by side, the health
issue, be it climate change, working for our democracies. These are just a few examples.
And I want to talk about how this may affect those agendas.
But I want to know whether you think, talking about democracy and dictatorship, that this is a way that China could seek to create divisions
between the democracies. What do you feel about that?
VON DER LEYEN: We will certainly not let that happen, because we know exactly who our friends and allies are, and we know that we have shared
values, that we have common interests.
These talks are going on, but, again, we also have to focus on the pressing global topics that we have to deal with. This is the topic of climate
change. That is how to overcome the pandemic or, for example, the effect of the digitalization, just to name a few.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that you have -- I know you have spoken a lot about it, build back better, put climate into the post-COVID build-back, and it's
a centerpiece of what you have spoken about many, many times.
Some people are not convinced. They say, yes, there's a lot of kind words, a lot of good words, but there's still not that overwhelming sort of
getting together by all governments to make this happen, and there's still divisions between Europe, between the United States, between China, India,
and the rest.
And you can also see what's happening in the U.K. right now, with this massive sudden gas crisis, whether this will even work out by the host.
VON DER LEYEN: Yes, indeed.
So, we know that -- and we have seen this summer what climate change does already to our people and our economies, deadly flooding, devastating
fires, desertification, just to name a few topics. So, it's time to step up.
And there's a second thought in it. I'm deeply convinced that, in fighting climate change, there's also a new growth strategy, because what do we have
to do? We have to put a price on carbon, so we have to cut drastically back pollution.
We have to restore nature. The destruction of nature has to stop. And we have to move forward into a circular economy, where we give back more to
nature than we take from it. These are the principles.
And the European Union has proven that you can work with that in a way. We have cast our goals to -- for 2030 and 2050 in the European law. We have
put out a detailed road map, sector by sector, how we want to get there.
At the beginning, there were a lot of discussions about that. But my experience is, the moment you're there with very clear leadership and
orientation, where we want to go and how we want to go there, everybody is aligning and going with us in the same direction.
Business, the economy -- business has understood that we have really to move forward to a circular economy and we have to think now about the
innovation and the financing that we can put forward to get there.
AMANPOUR: Well, you will be in New York. You are in New York. It's the center of business and capitalism.
There's been a lot of complaints, even by those who have claimed to be socially responsible on climate, that business is seriously still after the
bottom line, what they invest in, their fossil fuel investments. And even the American climate czar, John Kerry, told me that, that the bottom line
is still what counts.
Do you think you will have any attempts, efforts, successes in trying to get business and, of course, governments on board on a realignment of
investment when it comes to protecting the climate?
VON DER LEYEN: So, where business is concerned, we're making the experience in the European Union that they have understood, that all of us have to
step up to fight climate change.
I give you an example. The European Commission is issuing green bonds. They were heavily -- and that's positive -- oversubscribed. So, there's a lot of
search for truly sustainable green project to invest in. That's good.
Or, for example, we have seen that we now build alliances with the economic sector and the private investment, for example, to create green hydrogen,
so that you go through innovation and investment.
But there's also a second element I don't want to miss to mention. The major economies, the developed economies have a duty also to finance the
climate change issues that the least developed and most vulnerable countries have.
There is a promise, since the Paris agreement, that major economies will finance every year $100 billion to support these developed and most
vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change.
And Europe did its share in the last years and will continue to pay its fair share. But I really call on the other major economies to also step up
their ambition. This is absolutely needed if we want really to be successful in the fight against climate change.
AMANPOUR: You're absolutely right. These governments must. And, as we all know -- and you started out by saying it -- so many of those promises have
not yet been kept since Paris.
Also on COVID, you know better than any there was a huge promise to distribute fairly, justly, humanely COVID vaccines, COVID care, and that
just hasn't happened. E.U., of course, has stepped up its vaccination. It's ahead of the U.S. right now. But when it comes to Africa and elsewhere,
it's just not.
Dr. Christos Christou, the head of Medecins Sans Frontieres, Doctors Without Borders, says: "The E.U. likes to portray itself as a champion of
vaccine equity, but the gap between those beautiful words and its actions is embarrassingly wide. The E.U. continues to block initiatives to help
other countries produce their own vaccines and therapeutics and has not shared promise vaccine doses on time."
And that's a fact. And you are president of the commission. Madam President, what do you say about that? What can you say to encourage them?
VON DER LEYEN: Yes, let's set the record straight.
We were the only region in the world that, throughout this whole pandemic, has kept open the export of vaccines. Every second doses of COVID vaccine
that has been produced in Europe left Europe and went to other countries; 130 different countries have been served.
Up to today, we have produced round about 1.5 billion doses of vaccines; 750 million doses went abroad to other countries, while 750 million doses
also were delivered to the Europeans. As I said, we were the only ones. And it was tough in between. There's a second point that is correct.
We also need to donate, plain and simply, doses in kind, absolutely right, from your citation. And here in the European Union, we will donate 500
million doses until the middle of next year, 250 million doses still this year and the second half, then in the first six months of the next year.
And the third point you were mentioning is the production of vaccines, for example, in Africa. Here, we have done a major step forward. It's not for
the short term, but building up manufacturing capacities in Africa is an important mid- and long-term goal.
AMANPOUR: Let's just quickly touch on Afghanistan.
Europe, United States, the West had a clear bottom line, that human rights have to be respected, that women's rights have to be respected. And we now
hear the latest news is that the girls are not going back to school, boys are being called back.
What will it take for the E.U. to actually make its voice heard on this issue and the conditions by which you might even recognize the Taliban? Are
you there yet?
VON DER LEYEN: So, indeed, the events in Afghanistan are a tragedy for the Afghan people and a severe blow for the international community.
So, first and foremost important task is, there is a humanitarian crisis. And famine is threatening major parts of the population. So, we, plain and
simply, first of all, have to help.
And, yes, then there are the talks with the Taliban. These are operational talks. The Taliban need us, too, to get through the worst difficulties at
the moment being in Afghanistan. This is not a recognition of the Afghan government, but we need, on a very practical basis, to talk to them,
because there is, as you said, a lot of stake -- at stake.
And we have to negotiate ongoing with them, so that we can secure rights for vulnerable people, for women, for girls in Afghanistan, while working
with a very difficult government.
AMANPOUR: Do you really think that's going to happen, women's rights?
VON DER LEYEN: We will see over time.
We have to do everything to support those -- those who are keeping up the fight in Afghanistan or who left Afghanistan and are working from abroad.
This is our -- our shared agenda. I mean, this was one of the reasons why we were there for 20 years, to support the Afghan people, to live up -- to
develop a democracy and an inclusive society.
So, indeed, this is a severe setback, as I said, for the international community. But you cannot give up. You have to work to improve things, even
under very, very difficult circumstances.
AMANPOUR: In your state of the union speech, you, who are a previous defense minister, you did actually make another call for more E.U. defense
This seems to be something that's going to go forward. And the French are calling for it as well. Can I get you to answer that?
VON DER LEYEN: So, indeed, what we have seen over the last weeks and months, again, is the fact that it is important for the European Union to
have the capability that are needed, when there's the political will to act and to change things.
So, we will step up to build our European defense union. Many of our member states are members of NATO, and NATO is the strongest military alliance in
the world. But it is important to have a strong European pillar in NATO and to have, for the European Union, the capabilities to act independently in
theaters where, for example, NATO is not, but the European Union is called upon.
A second reason is, we really need to step up to fight the new kinds of threats we see. These are hybrid attacks. This is -- these are
cyberattacks. Here, we have to become more self-assertive and more independent.
And these are topics which we will develop now. We will have a European defense summit in France at the beginning of the next year to discuss how
we structure the way forward. In the meantime, we're working on the very practical steps that have to be done now to get more independence and more
capabilities that are European.
AMANPOUR: Ursula von der Leyen, commission president, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us today.
VON DER LEYEN: Thank you, Christiane. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, signaling that the E.U. might strike out on its own a bit more.
Now, after the U.S. and NATO left Afghanistan, other governments are trying to figure out how to deal with the Taliban, as you heard. The U.N. high
commissioner for refugees is just back from a three-day trip there. And he's sounding the alarm bells.
Filippo Grandi says the humanitarian situation is desperate. And he's joining me now from New York.
Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner, welcome to our program.
You just heard Ursula von der Leyen, the E.U. Commission president, talk about famine, talk about catastrophe, building on what you have been
warning about. Just tell me from your own eyes and what you saw there what people are going through right now.
GRANDI: The humanitarian situation needs to be addressed very quickly. It's not new, of course, but we have come -- it has developed over the years of
Now, paradoxically, perhaps, there is more security in Afghanistan than we have seen in a long time. The fighting between the Taliban and the previous
government has ended. So there is a space at least to expand quickly humanitarian operations.
And the U.N. humanitarian agency, mine, UNHCR, and others, which have not left Afghanistan -- we have never left Afghanistan, even during the
difficult days in August -- we have the infrastructure and the capacity to step up quickly. And the Taliban, with whom I have spoken during my recent
visit in recent days, are ready to give us that space and that security.
So we need to dive into that space and try to meet the urgent needs before winter starts, which is in a few weeks, literally, in the country.
AMANPOUR: So, what exactly do you need? I mean, we see pictures of tents. We heard Ms. von der Leyen talking about clean water, clean food. We have
seen our own reporters there talking about the most horrendous sort of so- called shelters that are popping up around Kabul, as people are trying to get out of Taliban areas and try to seek some safety.
What exactly do you need, first and foremost? How much do you need from the international community in terms of tonnage or money?
GRANDI: Well, Christiane, I think you're right. The needs are big.
Look, just from the perspective of my organization, there's 3.5. million displaced people just displaced by violence and conflict, 500,000 recent
ones. They need shelter.
But the rest of the population needs everything. Food is a big priority, medical care. Dr. Tedros, the head of WHO, is in Afghanistan as we speak.
We're really keeping the pressure and multiplying the initiatives.
We need money, first of all. The secretary-general, the other day, launched an additional appeal for $600 million. It was well-subscribed. We need
those pledges to come online very quickly, to be realized very quickly. But we need to sustain this humanitarian effort in the medium term.
We have a history in Afghanistan of getting resources when there is an acute crisis, and then those resources dry up. We cannot afford that now,
because discussing with the Taliban on this, but also on all the other issues, women at work, education of girls, rights of minorities, will be
complex and long negotiation and discussion.
And we need to conduct it in a space that does not have a basic humanitarian crisis.
AMANPOUR: So, are you basically saying that they are more willing to talk about resolving the humanitarian crisis before all the others, and that
you're willing to allow them to do that?
GRANDI: I think that the line I have taken -- and I have told them about this -- is that, yes, we are ready -- there's a humanitarian imperative
that cannot be held back by any political considerations, but that we need to use that discussion also to raise other issues that are of concern to
People say they are of concern to the international community. I would like to say they are of concern to the Afghan people. That's what we need to
look into. And this includes the issues that I have mentioned.
I have to say, in my own discussions, granted, preliminary ones, brief ones, at the very beginning of this interaction, but those discussions had
this space. I was able to convey these points. I don't think it will be easy to have outcomes that are positive immediately.
But the space for discussion exists, and we must engage with the Taliban. There's no plan B there. They militarily control the country, most of the
countries, so we need to engage.
AMANPOUR: So, I'm really interested, because I don't know whether that's U.N.-ese, the space to talk about women's rights, when today we see that
they're not allowing girls to school. They have just said, stay home. They're not allowing any women to work, except, as they say, only if men
can do it.
They have dismissed the Ministry of Women's Affairs and turned it into a vice and virtue ministry. They don't look like they have a lot of space for
the things that, beyond survival, Afghan women and Afghan families want after 20 years. Where do you see the space?
GRANDI: I don't think that space is U.N.-ese.
We're talking about space for discussion, right? I think the space exists. There is a possibility. I remember the Taliban in the late 90s, I met them.
And it was much more difficult to even raise these issues. Now we can. We have to do with what we have.
But the important thing is to continue to engage. It will be slow progress, if we're lucky. There will be progress. But it will be slow. But not to
have this conversation, begin every conversation by putting red lines, I'm afraid may not lead us very far.
So, while we discuss, we need to also deliver, because Afghan people, men and women, are hungry, need medical care, need water, need shelter. And
that has to be delivered quickly.
AMANPOUR: So, just on that point briefly, so you do see a difference between Taliban 1.0 and 2.0?
GRANDI: It's very early days. We're talking about the second month, but I would say yes.
AMANPOUR: What about on -- which is good news for the Afghan people, if that's correct, and for the international community.
What about on the issue of COVID? Obviously, they were hit very, very badly. I just want to read some of these stats. According to the U.N., 86
percent of refugees, as you know better than anybody, are housed in developing countries; 80 percent of all vaccines has been given in high-
and upper-income countries.
In terms of refugees, whether around Afghanistan or elsewhere, how are they coping or not, with the protection against COVID?
GRANDI: Christiane, I'm sometimes surprised myself, but I have to say that, globally, most countries hosting large numbers of refugees -- I'm talking
about millions, not the few tens of thousands here and there that some rich countries sometimes complain about -- I'm talking about the millions that
are present in African countries, in Asian countries, in Latin America.
Well, most of those countries have not discriminated between nationals and refugees. Everybody was included in the health responses prior to vaccines.
And now, when they have the vaccines, they include the refugees.
Unfortunately, as you said, 90 percent of the refugees are in countries that have not received -- that have not received enough vaccines. So the
refugees are penalized, as everybody else. This is why the drive for vaccine equity, for vaccinating the world, I understand the United States
is taking some initiatives in this respect, and I think it's very positive for them as well.
AMANPOUR: And where you are at the U.N. headquarters, obviously, climate is going to be a huge thing. And we know all about climate migration.
And, in fact, the new World Bank report predicts that climate change could displace more than 200 million people internally, within their own
countries, by 2050. That's not too many years down the line. Huge, huge crisis.
What needs to be in place by people like yourself and those who deal with migration and refugees to mitigate this? Or can it be?
GRANDI: Well, first of all, of course, anything that needs to be done to address the climate emergency, reducing emissions, for example, applies to
this as well. That's obvious, but it's important to say it.
But then we need to look at the more detailed elements of this issue. There is already, as we speak, a lot of climate displacement. There is climate
displacement because, many times, for example, the climate emergency causes conflict. Look at West Africa. Look at the Sahel, for example, less
resources before -- because of the climate emergency.
And the social cohesion between ethnic groups, for example, in countries like Asia or Burkina Faso collapses, fighting starts, and then you have
refugees or displaced people. So we need to look, to analyze in a very granular way all these consequences of the climate emergency and address
them one by one.
Unfortunately, it's the same thing about COVID, right? Most of the displacement is in countries that are already very fragile because of
climate. So the two things need to go together.
The last point I want to make here is that let's look at responses to refugee crises not just from the humanitarian point of view, but also from
the longer-term climate developmental point of view. This is what we're trying to do with institutions like the World Bank, like bilateral
development cooperation and so forth.
AMANPOUR: A huge agenda.
Filippo Grandi, U.N. high commissioner for refugees, thank you for joining us.
Now, since the end of World War II, half-a-million children have been adopted from abroad by American families, but at least 50 have been
deported since 2000. That's according to the nonprofit Adoptees For Justice.
The new film "Blue Bayou" highlights this pressing issue. It was written, directed and stars former "Twilight" actor Justin Chon. It follows a
Korean-born adoptee fighting for the only life he's ever known. And here he is talking to Hari Sreenivasan about the Asian American experience and even
representation in Hollywood.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks.
Justin Chon, thanks for joining us.
So, tell us a little bit about who this character is.
CHON: Well, the film is about Antonio LeBlanc. He's an Korean American adoptee. He was brought here when he was 3.
And he has a beautiful wife play by Alicia Vikander and a beautiful stepdaughter who's Caucasian. And during an altercation with his
stepdaughter's father, who is a cop, he gets on ICE's radar, and tries to fight to stay to be with his family.
SREENIVASAN: What gave you this idea to do an entire film about Korean Americans or at least adoptees that face deportation?
CHON: I have quite a few adoptee friends.
And I started hearing that -- through the community, that adoptees were being deported. They were brought over here as children when they were
very, very young. And they were finding out as adults, 20, 30 years later, that they never had citizenship.
These are kids that came over from other countries, brought here by U.S. citizens. And the adoptions were legally acknowledged by the government.
So, it was something that was absolutely shocking to me. And I felt a strong need to shine a light on this issue.
SREENIVASAN: You know, it's interesting, because, obviously, they were children at the time. They didn't know what paperwork was necessary.
But I guess their parents never officially filed for their citizenship? Is that the root cause here?
CHON: There's a myriad of reasons this happens.
But, yes, one of the reasons is, they didn't fully go through the entire process or some sort of paperwork was left out. I mean, also, mind you,
this was -- when they were brought here, a lot of them were -- it was during the '70s and 80s. So, it wasn't as stringent of immigration policy,
and the adoption process wasn't as stringent as it is today.
Another thing is, adoption is always talked about through rose-colored glasses. And we don't talk about how, sometimes, these parents, they bring
these children over.
CHON: And they don't want them. So, they are put for, you know, adoption again or put to the foster care system. And, you know, if that's the case,
there's no chance in hell that the parents, you know, proceeded with the whole naturalization process. It's -- you know, if you've ever been through
that, it's a very long process. There's a lot of paperwork involved. And, you know, oftentimes, a lawyer is also involved as well. So, if you've been
put up and given up again, you know, a lot of times, that's not going to happen.
SREENIVASAN: There's a clip in the lawyer's office and really just the -- your character's wife is talking about how American you are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has two kids. I mean, listen to him. Look at him. He's American.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't matter what he looks like. It's immigration policy.
CHON: I was brought here when I was three. I've been here over 30 years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, sometimes with these international adoptions in the '80s, the proper paperwork.
CHON: Yes. But like I said, I've been here for over 30 years. Can't you just tell them that I was adopted by white people?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand your frustration. I really do. But it's not how it works. Now, here are your options. You can depart voluntarily and
have a chance of receiving status or you can stay, and appeal. But if you do that, and the judge doesn't rule in your favor, you forfeit any
opportunity to return to this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: It was one of those sort of obvious yet strange scenes that you're having to prove yourself American.
CHON: Yes. You know, that's one of the questions that films ask is what is an American? Is it legality or is it birth or is it choice? You know, and
it is quite peculiar because, you know, he's as American as American can be. You know, all of his tattoos are American traditional tattoos. You
know, he has a very, you know, Louisiana distinct accent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHON: He told me I got a letter from my real mom. At first, I didn't believe him because why would she send me a letter after all that time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHON: But his face is Asian. And I think that this is happening across the country and it's been happening since the Clinton administration. So, it's
a bipartisan issue. And, you know, it's a side of immigration policy that were -- we haven't been seeing. You know, a lot of people don't know this
is happening. Most of the time, immigration is about the border and illegal crossings but, you know, nobody thinks to imagine that it would affect
adoptees brought here by U.S. citizens.
SREENIVASAN: There's definitely a very strong kind of fatherhood, parenting connection kind of storyline that goes through this as well. I mean, we
find out a little bit more about your character's background and how difficult it was. Why did you write the character in such a way where, by
all means, this guy looks like a pretty good dad to his stepdaughter?
CHON: He's human. You know, you can -- you know, dualities exist in all of us. You know, it's also a question of, do we deserve second chances? You
know, he has a -- he's a flawed human and I did that on purpose because I didn't want this to be some sort of propaganda piece. You know, I don't
tell anybody what to think and what to believe in this film. I don't want to say what's right and wrong. I just present a man's life and, you know,
just show one person's experience with this process, which means that, you know, he cannot be a perfect person. He does have a criminal record. But
he's trying to mend the past and also become a good father and a good husband.
You know, and me, personally, just on a personal level, I have a daughter and, you know, fatherhood is very important to me. And I don't see why an
adoptee couldn't be a great father. You know, I also think that Antonio, the character, dealing with what he's dealt with and, you know, having gone
through the foster care system, I think he would want to do everything he can to give everything he hasn't had to his children.
SREENIVASAN: There's another clip in the film which is early and you're sitting down for a job interview and you get asked a question that I think
almost every immigrant to America has gotten asked at some point. It's that, where are you from question?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Antonio LeBlanc. How do you get a last name like that?
CHON: I was adopted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where you from?
CHON: I'm from (INAUDIBLE) North of Baton Rouge. You know, a small town called St. Francis Villa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you from, like born?
CHON: I see what you mean. I was born in Korea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: LeBlanc?
CHON: Yes, sir. Yes. I mean --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It says you have two felonies.
CHON: Yes, but they were for non-violent crimes. You know, I wouldn't hurt nobody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you steal?
CHON: You know, I could fix just about anything. You know, I could fix motorcycles, you know, car. Hell, I could fix --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you steal?
CHON: Motorcycles, you know. But that was a long time ago. You know, if you give me a chance, you know, I could be a real asset to your workplace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: How often have you, Justin Chon, gotten that question?
CHON: You know, it's happened like throughout my life. But, you know, growing up, yes. Yes, I heard it quite a bit. And you know, it's always
quite interesting to hear that question because I was born in the United States. I was born in California. And, you know, you say, it's always a
common thing of like, it goes down the line of, you tell where you're from, what city you're from. And then, they finally ask, no, no, no. Where are
your parents from?
But what I do know is, it's not the question that bugs me. It's usually depends on the intent. The intention. If it's meant to alienate, then yes,
it's quite destructive, but if it's really out of curiosity, then, you know, I do think it's harmless. You know, I've traveled the entire country
and I've met a lot of people from all over and what I have found is most people are very kind in this country. Most people -- and when ignorant
things are said sometimes, it's truly because they're curious and they just want to know you and they don't have a common ground.
SREENIVASAN: There's also an incident that I don't know if most of the audience would recognize it now, in this particular case, the interaction
between the police and your central character, there's a personal connection there, but how Asian Americans or how Asians in the United
States are treated by police, the excessive use of force in the film is not that surprising to some Asian Americans that have lived in this country.
CHON: My dad had a business in Compton. You know, I spent a lot of time there. You know, I was born in Garden Grove. I lived mostly, you know, very
nice life, an (INAUDIBLE), middle class life but, you know, a lot of my friends are from Garden Grove, which is, you know, not the best
neighborhoods with -- also near Anaheim. But, you know, I've definitely experienced, you know, police, you know, force and whatnot. But the biggest
thing is, is, you know, my family was rooted during the L.A. riots in '92 and that was, you know, obviously spurred by the Rodney King beating.
You know, some people have been asking, how did you time this film so well, you know, because it's coming right off the heels of, you know, everything
that's happened in the last two years with George Floyd and -- there was no timing. It's always been happening. It's just that, you know, in 2020,
2021, we have camera phones now that can document these things. Before, you had to be there at the exact perfect time right place and right time with a
video camera. But this -- you know, the police brutality has been happening for decades.
But I'm not saying all cops -- as you saw in the film, I'm not saying all cops are bad. You know, Ace, he has a reason for what he does. He really,
you know, just wants to be part of his daughter's life and also, my brother-in-law is a cop. So, you know, it's just -- I'm just reporting on
what my, what I see and what my surroundings are and what I find truthful.
SREENIVASAN: Do you think in the time since you've started to make the film until now, has the landscape in Hollywood changed much or how so? I mean,
because on the one hand, we've had kind of the #MeToo movement bring out some of the inequities. On the other hand, we've had, you know, some
successful films with Asian characters in it that are not just the sort of side role or kind of a supporting actor, buddy comedy kind of things. But
I'm curious to see like as an actor and a director, what are you seeing?
CHON: It has changed. You know, there's still a long way to go, there's still a lot of work to be done. But, you know, since when I started in the
year 2000, it's definitely -- you know, in the last 21 years, it definitely has changed. You know, I've been here to witness it.
But there's a sort of chicken and the egg or, you know, sort of a dilemma here because one of the biggest criteria to getting a film financed is
having a movie star, a financeable movie star, which means that you can bring in foreign sales and, you know, this whole archaic financial model of
filmmaking, I don't think that applies anymore. You know, I don't think that applies anymore, but they still hold onto that and it's -- I don't
know. At times, I feel like it can be a systemically racist model because, well, you're saying that, you know, we cannot cast an Asian as a lead
because he's not financially, you know, viable, but we cannot become financially viable unless we have the opportunities to play the leads.
So, I don't know how to fix that problem. You know, so, it's slowly happening. And needs to take a miracle. So, you know, like, you get like a
Henry Golding that he's not famous when he's the lead of a "Crazy Rich Asians." And then, now, he's had a certain amount of Box Office success
that he is financeable to a certain degree. But you know, that's not happening very often compared to our white counterparts, and I still think
there's a long way to go because it's still very, very difficult to have an Asian-led film.
SREENIVASAN: At the end of the film, in the credits, you've got images of adoptees that have either been deported or on the verge of being deported.
What can be done about this?
CHON: You know, I'm not a politician, obviously. And I'm not -- and when it comes to politics, I'm a dummy. I couldn't tell you how all the primaries
and, you know, everything works to getting the president elected. But, you know, I am an artist and made this film to shine a light on this issue and
that's my super power, you know, bringing it to the masses and, you know, hopefully, the right people see it. I've partnered with some groups like
adoptees for advocacy.
And, you know, hopefully, I can -- you know, if the right groups approach and right legislators can see the film or it can be presented to them. You
know, and what I do know is legislation is about exposure. You know, we need to know there's a problem for it to be fixed and it needs -- there's
so many issues in this country that, you know, which one first? You know, so like the more attention I can draw to it, the more likelihood we can
have first some action to take place.
That's what my hope is, is that I just bring enough awareness and then, the experts in D.C. and people who do this type of work can take it from there
and I can lend my voice anytime on the emotional level whenever they need me.
SREENIVASAN: The film is called "Blue Bayou." Justin Chon, thanks so much for joining us.
CHON: Thank you, appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And the film out in U.S. theatres now.
And finally, while America can often be a deeply inhospitable place, one recent immigrant is achieving brilliant success in her new hometown of
Nashville, Tennessee. The rising musical star, Yola, was born and raised in Bristol on England's West Coast. But her love of great classic pop inspired
her to set down roots in America's music city. Her first album out of Nashville called "Walk with Fire" earned Yola four Grammy nominations. And
now, her latest album, "Stand for Myself," is on course to break out even bigger. And here's a clip from her new single, "Diamond Studded Shoes."
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AMANPOUR: And Yola is joining me now from Nashville.
Welcome to the program.
"Diamond Studded Shoes," it's a wonderful, wonderful song. Great tune but it also comes with a helpful picture, I think, on which it was based, the
crystal incrusted shoes of won female British prime minister. Is that right? Was that the inspiration?
YOLA, SINGER/SONGWRITER: That was the inspiration, yes. Theresa May. Probably not often thought of as an inspiration or a muse for music. But,
you know, it took a second to the field and was inspired by those shoes. And how incongruous and appropriate they were given the context in which
they were being worn, which was to deliver news. That we don't have any money anymore.
AMANPOUR: You know, it's really interesting that you say that because I was expecting you to say, she looks so great, she stepped out, she was being,
you know, edgy, but you put it right back to, you know, some of the very -- I mean, very harsh policies that her government and previous, you know,
certainly, conservative governments had that have left kids and women and so many out in the cold. Was that what you were trying to say with that?
YOLA: 100 percent. You almost concluded it for me. Thank you. It was unbelievable and it was the sheer unabashed caucacity (ph) of it all that
was to be so proud and marching out, looking so utterly fierce to say, you know how you pay me. Well, yes. Well, I'm wearing the spoils of what I've
managed to acquire from you. And I'm going to tell you that there's nothing left because I've just spent it.
So, Little Tommy is not going to get dinner anymore. And it was just absolutely like infuriating. And I don't come from everything. A lot of my
friends don't come from anything. And we all have different backgrounds, you know, very mixed friendship group. But like the one thing we have in
common is that it was -- it felt like they were taking the mickey (ph). And so, yes, like that song just jumped out to me. You know, like I can't help
AMANPOUR: So, tell me, Yola. Well, and we know Marcus Rashford, the football star, we know UNICEF, the U.N. children's fund, they've very
concerned about exactly what you're talking about right here in England. So, it's a fact.
And I want to ask you, did any of that play any part of your desire to move from Bristol, Western England, to that Nashville, Tennessee, music city of
YOLA: Well, I moved -- I only moved just properly. I was always traveling backwards and forwards in 2019. But 2020, I was like -- you know, I want to
try and live the between two places, and I got stuck here. So, the -- and I was like, ah. I might as well just commit. Just commit Yola. And so, I
moved. So, part of it was a practicality but part of it was also that need to have a higher glass ceiling.
I think I'd like to quote as Gina Yashere, and she goes, you know, saying, yes, only the glass ceiling higher. And so, that's it. We're not all that
different, either side of the pond. Separated by a common language often, but the glass ceiling is a markedly higher here. Specifically, for dark
skinned black women. And that's what Gina Yashere was referring to. (INAUDIBLE), the person that I follow speaks of the same thing, you know.
And so, yes. They're not wrong. You know, you speak to any myriad of --
AMANPOUR: That is very interesting. Yes, what you say about the color shades and it's become a real issue and it's really interesting to hear you
talk about that because, again, you know, you talk about it in your songs. You know, on your Instagram bio, you describe yourself as a musically genre
bending four-time Grammy nominee. I like that. Genre bending. Tell me the genre bending first.
YOLA: Yes. I'm always describing as -- genre fluid was a term I coined to describe my music because as Brits we didn't have a genred (ph) radio as we
do over here in America. And so, you might have grown up listening to radio where a playlist had Nirvana and like Bjork and Brown Stone or Aaliyah or
something all in one line and the blur. Like that's the era I grew up in, you know, where it was all just we absorbed it all at the same time.
And so, like it seems to be something that like maybe as music has gotten more genred (ph), even in the U.K., we've forgotten the very history of how
we used to absorb music. And so, like that's just a reflection of my environment of growing up, listening to the radio, hovering over the radio
on Sunday, listening to top 40 and to the radio shows and how they explored music in this freeway. You know, that's what made me. And so, that's who I
AMANPOUR: So, I want to play a clip from your latest, "Walk Through Fire," and then, we'll talk about it.
YOLA: That's my first.
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AMANPOUR: So, aptly corrected, this is "Stand for Yourself" and what I said was your first. But I'm really interested by some of the words in there.
You know, let go of yourself for a new beginning. It was easier to sing than to stand for myself. Tell me about that.
YOLA: So, when I was in the U.K., there was a particular stigma associated with people that did backing vocals. It was maybe seen by some record
executives that if you did any kind of supportive work in the industry that it couldn't be possible you had any artistic license to create, and that's
something that was almost answered (ph) but you heard it, it was under the radar in the way that it was talked about.
And also, simultaneously to that, every time you went into the space as a musician, as an artist, people would suggest to the darker of us that had
we considered doing back singing work? And so, they kind of worked in concert to subvert black female autonomy. And the same thing didn't happen
to males as much. And so, it's very targeted at black women.
And so, I had to spend a lot of time fighting for my right to be a lead singer, sometimes a lead singer for hire. But even in those scenarios, the
idea of service was very hard to get over. And sometimes it was easier just to sing like whatever. Like if it's someone else's song that I'm filling in
as the tall person for hire who can sing any like 15 songs, three of which are mine, you know. Like it was easier for me to just kowtow to someone
else's authority than it was to lead because it was like it was just enough to fight to be able to trying a couple songs or to maybe have this idea of
building something that was very different from being a house vocalist or singing R&B or whatever the teeny tiny boxes that I was allowed into.
And so, it became like something I had to like grow out of, this idea of what was easier. I always had to kind of see such for the hard road, the
road less traveled. Maybe the road that didn't have an example of -- or a role model for me to follow. That was black and British and a lady. And so,
I had to just -- that's why it was so much easier for so much of my life to just sing, you know, as opposed to stand for myself. And so, that's why I
call the record "Stand for Myself." Because I'm standing for my right to nuance. Not to be strong. But to be (INAUDIBLE) but to be nuanced and
actually, to write my own story.
AMANPOUR: And, you know, as they say, agency, and you certainly seemed to have, you know, really, you know, cracked that, which is great. We want to
play out -- obviously, COVID has been so difficult for everybody, not only, you know, stopping your concerts but everything. And there was -- I want to
play out but explain to me what -- we're going to look at "Faraway Look." But it's "Tiny Desk Concert." Just tell me about that before I play a clip.
YOLA: Well, "Tiny Desk Concerts" are wonderful things. If you're acquainted with NPR, you'll know that they strapped in this lovely little enclave in
the offices, and like any numbers of patents (ph) have done it, and I was so honored to do it. I sang the lead, the first track on my debut album,
which is what you're going to hear, and it's kind of the precursor to my current record. Like I am at this place of having checked out and I have
that faraway look in my eye. Now, go and to do this because it's easier to sing, right.
And so, I'm just singing and I'm not engaged. And so, that's where we set our scene for this song. And in the company of "Tiny Desk" and the
AMANPOUR: So, on that note, we are going to play "Faraway Look." Yola, thank you so much for joining us.
YOLA: Thank you so much for having me. It's been a wonderful pleasure.
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