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Interview With Former Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia- Herzegovina Haris Silajdzic; Interview With Artist Lubaina Himid; Omicron COVID Variant Raising Alarm; Interview with "The Trial of the Chicago 7" Actor Sacha Baron Cohen; Interview with "The Trial of the Chicago 7" Writer/Director Aaron Sorkin. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 26, 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.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Bosnia-Herzegovina and its most serious crisis since the 1990s war, with the U.S.-backed peace process under threat. I
speak to the former Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The early indications we have of this variant is that it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant.
AMANPOUR: Yet another one on the horizon raising new COVID concerns. We will bring you the latest.
LUBAINA HIMID, ARTIST: the audience members the most important person in that room. Yes, I made the paintings, but they are conversations with
AMANPOUR: An immersive explosion of color and sound from Lubaina Himid, the first black female artist to win The Turner Prize, with a
groundbreaking new exhibit at London's Tate Modern. We discuss her art and her audience.
SACHA BARON COHEN, ACTOR: I don't perceive myself as having a role. I just felt compelled to do something.
AMANPOUR: The trial of the Chicago Seven and why it resonates today. Looking back at my conversation with the star of the movie, Sacha Baron
Cohen, and director Aaron Sorkin.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Bosnia and Herzegovina on the brink of collapse, that is the stark warning from a member of the European Parliament, as the E.U. becomes increasingly
concerned about a conflict erupting once again in the Balkans. The war in the 1990s saw tens of thousands lose their lives, and since it ended with
the U.S.-brokered Dayton accords of 1995, Bosnia has been divided into two semiautonomous regions that are linked by a joint presidency.
The leader of the Serbian entity, Milorad Dodik, has been threatening to pull out of key state level institutions. And it was the Serb effort and
violent secession in the '90s that engulfed the region in flames and eventually dragged in the United States, Europe and the wider world.
Joining me now to discuss, Haris Silajdzic, who held several top positions, including as Bosnia's wartime foreign minister, prime minister and
president after the war.
Haris Silajdzic, welcome to the program.
Do you share the worry that this MEP just said, or do you believe, like the top official there, the high representative, that he doesn't see conflict
erupting? How worried are you?
HARIS SILAJDZIC, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE PRESIDENCY, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Very worried.
It's a situation where it's better to prevent than heal. They are threatening use of force again, which is, after all what has happened in
Bosnia, preposterous. We need urgent action to get Dayton Agreement back on track. It is not on track.
And we hope that the American administration will pay attention to this continuously.
AMANPOUR: Haris Silajdzic, the Americans did send an official there, their top State Department official. The national security adviser has been
discussing with his counterpart.
It looks like the Americans are looking very carefully at this and don't want to see their own diplomacy, the Dayton process, lying in shreds. But I
also want to ask you. Milorad Dodik on -- basically said that he wanted to pull out of state institutions, including from the joint army.
On this program a few weeks ago, the international high representative told us that that would be the red line. Now Dodik has abandoned that threat.
And this is what he is saying. I'd like to play some of his latest comments to you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MILORAD DODIK, SERB MEMBER OF THE PRESIDENCY OF BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA (through translator): They all have their views. But they also want peace
to be maintained here.
And I kept saying that I am not ready to sacrifice anything for peace. And I am not ready to sacrifice peace for some struggle for the Bosnian Serb
republic. Peace is the way for Republika Srpska, that is its policy, not war, not conflict.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, do you believe that, that he doesn't want to create a conflict? And do you think the fact that he's dropped the threat of pulling
out of the joint military, that that has calmed the situation.
SILAJDZIC: Well, of course I do not believe that.
And let me tell you that this is not only about Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are bullying the whole region, not only that person, but also Belgrade
and Moscow behind them. That is what's happening. And that is why we need urgent attention by those who can do something about it here.
No, I do not believe what they say.
AMANPOUR: Well, look you have been through this. We all have in the '90s. And you heard threats, and you heard promises, and we all covered what
happened throughout the '90s.
I'm just trying to figure out why this is happening now. What has Europe or the United States or even Russia done, or the Serbs, as you say, Belgrade,
to create this crisis at this moment?
SILAJDZIC: Well, this is the repetition of 1991 and 1992, with more smiles. That's all. The agenda remains the same. That is greater Serbia.
And Belgrade regime has been and is the main instigator of all this and their ideology, ideology of greater Serbia, greater Serbia by force. That
is the problem of the whole region, not only of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Democracy is in danger here in the whole region because of that. So I would like to say that I do not believe what they say now, because, a few days
ago, they threatened the use of force. And they're buying time or whatever to overcome this situation, because the international community has
reacted, but rather slowly, and with only few words.
We need action here. We need to protect Bosnia-Herzegovina and the region from the new war, because they are prepared to do war.
SILAJDZIC: Look, Christiane, they would like to get out -- they would like to get out of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and they're threatening, it's our way, or
So what can we do now? That is why we need the Dayton Agreement back on track, because the Dayton Agreement does not allow for secession, for
separation. And that is why they needed to heighten tensions and get on the political field, instead of the law, because they think they can actually
get something more.
So, this is a dangerous situation. And the international community should react. But we hope that the American administration...
AMANPOUR: So, a fellow Bosnian...
SILAJDZIC: And there are a lot of people there they know exactly what's going on.
AMANPOUR: We have a bit of a delay. So, I keep sort of jumping in. But I want you to finish your thought.
But I do want to ask you, because you say something has to happen. So a fellow Bosnian, Arminka Helic, who is now baroness in Britain, and who
speaks out quite loudly on these issues, talked to me about what needs to happen. And she called for a deterrent force.
Let me just play a part of her interview with me from a couple of weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARMINKA HELIC, MEMBER, BRITISH HOUSE OF LORDS: The only way, in my opinion, to stop this is to deploy a deterrent force on the ground that can
repel any adventurism, whether it's called secession, whether it's called dissolution, whatever you call it on this occasion.
We have a very active and malign influence by Russia. And that is something that we have to take into account. And Russia is not only using Bosnia and
its proxies to destabilize the region, but it's also using it in order to test the strength of NATO and how far it can go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Haris Silajdzic, are you concerned about Russia's intentions there, and also that Bosnia could become a proxy for others?
Like, let's say Bosnia decides to seek help from Turkey or from other nations, that it could suddenly become a battleground again for external
SILAJDZIC: Baroness Helic is very right. We need a deterrent here in the region right now.
And I proposed a force, European or NATO forces, in the town of Brcko and control of the Drina River, because that is where tanks and killers came
from in '91, '95 .So we need a force that will prevent, and not heel.
AMANPOUR: So, you're right. They came from there, from Serbia and into Bosnia from there.
But can I ask you what -- you knew Milorad Dodik? You both became -- well, I mean, you were already in the public eye. But he then became head of the
Serbian entity around 2006. He was backed by the West then. He was considered a moderate. He paid lip service, at least, or he agreed with the
And he even agreed that what happened in Srebrenica was, in fact, a genocide by the Serb forces. What has made him into a nationalist now?
SILAJDZIC: That is a good question.
And I think he was radicalized gradually as he strengthened his relations with Moscow. Now we have a man that glorifies war criminals, that laughs at
the Dayton Agreement, that ridicules our efforts to maintain peace here, and threatening the force.
So that is why it's urgent to prevent it. And this is very serious.
AMANPOUR: I know that -- yes.
And I know that you believed at the time, because you were there at Dayton negotiations, that this was a bitter, bitter pill to swallow, that it
simply enshrined the war gains of the Serbian entity. And now I know you say you want to save it, because it is all that stands between war and
But I want to know whether you think eventually Dayton needs to be changed and, and whether you believe that some of this despair is because the E.U.
a few years ago kind of made it clear that Bosnia didn't have a chance any time in the near future of getting into the European Union.
SILAJDZIC: Christiane, right now, we need to be sure that there will be no war, and that is what citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina are worried. They're
Then, of course, we need another Constitution. We need a reform that would give us a normal civic democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. That's what our
citizens, the great majority of them, ask from all of us. Just give us a normal democracy, like anywhere else in Europe. Why can't we have it? Why
are we condemned to live in a system that actually rewarded the war criminals?
They now rot in prison, some of them for life. And their project -- their project is very much alive. That was a mistake. But Dayton was made -- was
agreed upon to make peace, and that was successful. We had peace.
But the other part of actually implementing the Dayton Agreement was not done very well. We do not have our refugees back. So, one annex, annex
seven of the Dayton Agreement was not implemented. Annex nine was not implemented.
So the Dayton Agreement was not implemented. And that is why this is an assault on the Dayton Agreement itself. And we want to have the...
AMANPOUR: Well, Haris Silajdzic...
SILAJDZIC: ... Dayton Agreement implemented 100 percent.
AMANPOUR: Well, your voice is loud and clear, as it was throughout the whole war, and, hopefully, Europe and the United States are looking and
watching and knowing they need to preserve it.
Thank you so much for being on our program tonight.
Now, the struggle to contain COVID has been likened to a war.
Here in the U.K., the government has swiftly introduced travel restrictions on passengers who are arriving from six countries in Southern Africa. And
the list of countries doing the same is growing rapidly.
And just moments ago, the World Health Organization has declared a new COVID variant first identified in South Africa as a variant of concern. The
first case has already made it to Europe, and it was found in Belgium. And the news is rattling investors. The Dow closed early today for the
Thanksgiving holiday, down 900 points.
CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins me now to put this all into context.
Elizabeth, sometimes, I feel we have to take a deep breath and try to figure out what's going on without too much panic. So, you, as somebody who
covers this and follows it, how panicked should one get about the concerns raised about this new variant found in South Africa?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Christiane, my theory is, never panic, because it doesn't help.
However, this variant of concern, just name that by the World Health Organization moments ago, it is indeed concerning. I mean, the expert panel
that looked at this, at the genetics of this very for WHO, they said, look there are things that we see here where we either know or we can predict
that it is going to be or could be more transmissible, that it could prove to be a challenge for the vaccine.
They don't name variants of concerns lightly. This is only the fifth one in the course of the pandemic. Now, having said that, there was another
variant of concern that came out of South Africa earlier this year, in the beginning of the year. That one was Beta. And that one never sort of took a
world stage. It was a problem in South Africa. It was a problem in some other -- a few other countries.
But it never became like Delta. So I know I'm sort of saying two things at once. But I think we have to be able to hold two thoughts in our mind at
one time. This is concerning. They need to figure out, is this more transmissible? Does it cause more severe disease? And does it cause a --
does it pose a challenge to the vaccine? Could it decrease vaccine efficacy. We just don't know yet.
Delta obviously was an issue. This one may not turn out to be as big of an issue as the Delta variant. And that's the work that is going on right now
in labs around the world. You take blood from a vaccinated person, you put it in the lab with this variant, and you can really gauge whether or not
the variant poses a challenge to the vaccine.
And then I'm told by scientists that's not an incredibly difficult or time- consuming thing to do. I think we could have answers in a matter of days -- Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Well, I think, yes, you're right. And I heard and watched AstraZeneca announce that they are precisely doing that right now. And they
think that their vaccine's efficacy will hold even with this one. But, as you say, we have got to wait and see hopefully in the next couple of days.
Just quickly, governments are reacting around the world, imposing quite swift restrictions now on travel. How do you think -- I mean, that's
probably a good thing to do right now?
COHEN: There are certainly people who will say, look, this is -- it's kind of one of the few things you can do, so why not do it? There are others who
say, look, you have got to be New Zealand. You have got to be like an island country in order for travel restrictions to really work.
But you can understand why countries are doing this. Really, the most important thing is to get vaccination and to get boosters where people are
eligible as much as possible. It's pretty unlikely that the vaccine would be completely ineffective against this variant. It likely would have some
or perhaps even full efficacy. And that's the important thing, is that people need to do the basics, vaccines, boosters where applicable, social
distancing, masking, all of that stuff that we're so tired of.
That's really what is so important here. And I want to make a note what you said about AstraZeneca. Pfizer/BioNTech is also testing their vaccine.
If, indeed, AstraZeneca said, we don't think it's going to be a problem, that's -- who knows? They can't really say that. We just don't know. They
need to do the lab work in order to figure that out, as do the other vaccine makers.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. And that's a very important note.
Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.
A celebration, next, of the British artist Lubaina Himid, who was the first black woman to win the prestigious Turner Prize. That was in 2017. And now
she's just launched her biggest ever exhibition at London's Tate Modern, an immersive experience. It includes new works, as well as pieces from her
And I sat down with this influential and barrier-breaking artist at the museum, as the exhibition opens to her most important constituents.
AMANPOUR: Lubaina Himid, welcome to the program.
HIMID: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So this is not even a retrospective, because there are special pieces done for this fantastic exhibition.
You walk in, and it is stunning, the riot of color, the cacophony of sound. It's a very different kind of exhibition than I have ever seen. What are
you trying to say and achieve?
HIMID: Well, I suppose the most important thing I'm trying to say is that the audience member is the most important person in that room.
Yes, I made the paintings, but they are conversations with audiences. So I want you to go in that room and understand that you have agency.
AMANPOUR: Meaning what exactly? What should an audience do to embrace the invitation that you're offering them?
HIMID: Well, rather than look at the work and admire it, as you sometimes doing in an art exhibition, you go in the room and ask yourself what this
reminds you of, what it makes you want to do, those sorts of questions around, not so much, why is she doing this thing, but how can I enter into
AMANPOUR: I read that you said that art is all well and good, but it's not as if what you're painting exists in a silent vacuum.
The boat, you will hear the oars, you will hear the sea. So sound is incredibly important for you as the life force around you.
HIMID: It is.
I mean, it's around us all the time. We're walking down the street, we're hearing all kinds of different sounds, different voices, different music?
And it doesn't -- it seems to me there's an exhibition, why would it be different than that?
And a lot of the time, I want the sound that's coming out into the gallery to encourage you to listen to the conversations you're having in your head.
So there's a sort of three-way thing going on.
Even the sound is trying to encourage you to feel and think about yourself and your actions and your memories.
AMANPOUR: You were the oldest and the first black female artist to win the Turner Prize in 2017. How has that changed the way you work or the way your
work is received?
HIMID: Well, in a way, it hasn't changed the way I work. But I suppose it did make me more daring.
I guess I won the prize when I was 63. And I kind of knew that they were not 63 years in front of me, knowing they were 63 years behind me. So I
absolutely understood that I have to make the most of the years ahead, so take any risks I could and keep going really. So that made a difference.
There's sort of no room for pondering, resting. I just want to make things, try things, work with other people and see what happens.
AMANPOUR: So I want to talk to you about your work, a very -- A Fashionable Marriage.
AMANPOUR: So that's cutouts.
AMANPOUR: And what year was it done?
HIMID: Originally, I mean, I -- this happens to me, because such a long time ago, but 1987.
AMANPOUR: OK, you were daring in 1987. It didn't take you the Turner Prize to be daring, because this is a really political piece. You have Ronald
Reagan, and this was in the '80s, when the whole idea of nuclear Armageddon was terrifying the world.
You have Margaret Thatcher, who was prime minister at the time. What are you saying? Because I understood that there was a lot of backlash. In fact,
you left London.
HIMID: I did.
HIMID: Well, what it was saying -- I mean, basically what it was saying was that the art world is exactly the same as this political world.
Don't kid yourself in museums or art galleries that you're special and liberal, because, to us black artists, you're behaving in exactly the same
way, ignoring us, doing damage to us, and not being interested in the -- in any of the things we're saying.
And that was a pretty difficult thing for people to hear. And, yes, a lot of people didn't like it.
AMANPOUR: What did they say?
HIMID: Oh, well, I suppose -- I suppose art world people at the time, critics, curators, thought that they were being supportive.
But they were being patronizing and giving us tiny crumbs. And I guess, at the time, I was in my early 30s. I expected more. I wanted more. I was more
ambitious for all of us. And I wanted to make a difference.
And I had the nerve to be that bold. And I didn't care. But, yes -- but I did think, oh, I will just leave because I can't be bothered with this
argument. I just want to keep making more art.
AMANPOUR: So, you left and you went to Northern England.
HIMID: Yes. Yes.
AMANPOUR: But here we are. You're back in a big way.
AMANPOUR: You are having the last laugh, right?
HIMID: I hope so.
AMANPOUR: The Marriage work also took a little bit from the painter Hogarth...
HIMID: Yes, absolutely.
AMANPOUR: ... who is currently, right now, on exhibition at the other Tate, Tate Britain.
There's a painting in the series Fashionable Marriage, it's the Countess's Morning Levee. And I have really copied it person for person and translated
it into the 1980s.
HIMID: Well, Hogarth was laughing at everybody, vicious to everybody, a bit of a bitter man, I suppose, but really interested in exposing political
AMANPOUR: You're not -- at least it doesn't come across in your paintings -- as a bitter woman, a bitter or sarcastic, devastating kind of artists,
because your paintings seem to be full of joy.
And even though you're taking on very difficult subjects, you're not, for instance, in -- is it called the Rodeur: Exchange?
AMANPOUR: You don't paint the victims of that event. You paint something very different.
Tell me about the Rodeur and how you decided to portray it.
Well, I suppose I wanted to examine what -- first of all, what terrifies me as an artist, and that would be losing my sight. What would terrify an art
audience? Losing their sight, because they obviously adore looking at visual things.
So that is lurking there in this scenario. The story of the Rodeur is, it was a French slave ship that took captured Africans from the West Coast of
Africa on the way to the Caribbean. And in that horrific journey, many, many, many of the crew and all of the captured Africans lost their sight.
AMANPOUR: It was -- no, no -- a virus or what happened?
HIMID: Yes, an eye infection. It ravaged through the entire, I suppose, cargo immediately.
And this seemed to me to be absolutely horrific and terrifying. And -- but what I'm trying to say in these paintings is that the vibrations, the
traces, the dust, the heat of that still surrounds us.
So, those people in that room with the sea outside looking elegant, but disconnected, they're kind of feeling that true story, understanding that
they don't feel quite right because they are the descendants of some of the survivors of that.
When they reached the Caribbean, OK, you have done that journey. Goodness knows how. You have gone blind, you have survived it, and then you're a
slave. It seems to me horror upon horror.
So there's no point in painting that, because you or I would come into that gallery and be horrified and overwhelmed by that.
AMANPOUR: One thing you just said is quite stunning. You said, those who survived, if they hadn't been thrown overboard.
The others were thrown overboard?
HIMID: Yes, that happened a lot. Sometimes, the ship's captain would feel that maybe the freshwater supply was low, so, rather than endanger his
crew, he would throw captured Africans overboard to save the water supply.
That was what was written down. But I think that many historians feel that, if there was any sign of insurrection, any sign of...
HIMID: Yes. Then, let's trap them overboard. But, of course, that was kind of dangerous because they were worth a lot of money. So, the insurance
claim found a lot of these things out, because everything is accounted for.
AMANPOUR: You're from Zanzibar. Your father was from Zanzibar. And your quote was saying, you know, I was born into tragedy. I'm paraphrasing but,
my birth also was tragedy. That's because your father passed away very early.
HIMID: Yes, I was four months old. And my father who got malaria every year in that kind of way, that you can and you do and you get it every year
and, you know, you have a -- you feel better and then, you're OK again. And that particular year, when I was four months old, he got it particularly
badly and died.
And my English mother, if she had the choice, she could have stayed there with me. She could have left me there with my African family or she could
bring me to England, and she decided that's what she wanted to do.
AMANPOUR: When you look back, was coming here to the U.K., did it provide you with a land of opportunity and would it have been different had you
stayed in Africa? Would you have been this artist? When you think back?
HIMID: I think if I stayed, I probably would have ended up designing kangas. I suspect, I still feel --
HIMID: The African cloths that I use a lot in my paintings to talk about conversations between women, really. I think I would have ended up being a
textile designer but in a bit in that kind of context. I suspect like in every young person's life, there's encouragement to be a doctor or a
lawyer, but I don't think that would have happened to me.
AMANPOUR: You do paint on sort of a lot of different surfaces.
AMANPOUR: It's not just canvas, right? I notice you have these lovely series of paintings. Man in a drawer. And there are different draws.
There's the shirt drawn. Pencil draw. And it's just fabulous. It's just beautiful. What inspires you? Also, you paint on, what looks like old farm
carts. What inspires you to just change your canvas or your -- yes?
HIMID: Well, I'm really interested in having conversations with people but within an everyday sort of setting, if you like. So, a canvas is one thing.
It's kind of recognizable as something that you would see in a gallery that is art.
But, you know, if you buy an old piece of furniture or just a secondhand piece of furniture, it doesn't have to be, you know, antique or anything,
and you open a drawer, then there's sort of the dust comes out or you somehow feel a trace of someone there before, a little piece of paper or an
ink stain in the drawer and you know that someone else has experienced that piece of furniture, has kind of -- has owned it and loved it perhaps and
kept all sorts of precious things in there or just their socks or whatever.
And so, yes, I'm trying to do sort of two or three things at once, bringing audience member close, get you to remember when you bought that funny old
rickety chest or drawers, you opened it and there was a letter inside. There's something magical about it but something that reminds you that all
around us is history and other people's lives.
AMANPOUR: You've also said, I obviously knew that there were black artists and black people who could do great creative things, but we never saw it.
We never saw representations in our contemporary world, in museums and elsewhere. How much of an impetus was that for you and how do you feel now,
when we see many, many black artists being recognized, being exhibited, being awarded?
HIMID: Well, I mean, it was huge impetus. I mean, obviously, I did -- well, I suppose one of the things that I always thought and always said
when I was much younger is that, I didn't want to be the only black artist. There's no joy in that. One wants to have conversations as part of a
community of people.
And I would go to the houses of people that I knew and there were prints on the wall done by African artists and they weren't famous or lorded, but
they were things that people had bought and bought straight from the artist. My mother had things that were different sorts of embroider things
or printed things or painted things. So, I knew that, you know, African people were making things.
And -- but it was very difficult to communicate that with the people that, if you like, held the key to showing it widely. So, we did it in places
that weren't galleries, first of all. We thought, OK, we're making this work and we want to show it in a nice setting, you know, to our families,
to the people we know that we work with.
So -- and I think what's changed is many, many more people had the courage to keep going. The energy to keep going. And there was lots of
encouragement, perhaps on a small scale, say in Britain from regional galleries, in the States from smaller galleries, from collectors and
teachers. And gradually, over these 40 years, there has been this sort of understanding that we are not threatening something, threatening to destroy
something, but just saying, we are enriching. That's the point, we're enriching the culture. And showing that we have a contribution to make.
AMANPOUR: What about being female? I'm going to read you -- and you probably seen it, everybody's seen. It's in this museum by the Guerrilla
Girls. And the legend is, do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum? They're basically saying, less than 3 percent of artists in the
modern art section, this is the Met in New York, are women. But 83 percent of the nudes are female.
Now, yes, this was done in 1999. And no doubt, the statistics and the facts have changed. But the point is the same, right? The point is how women are
HIMID: Yes, and I think it's a really difficult one because that should have been the very first and most -- I supposed, most vigorous battle. You
know, women like Griselda Pollock, the Guerrilla Girls, all those amazing women in the 1970s and 1980s were fighting that fight. But I'm not sure
that the percentage is that different now. Clear, it must be more different.
Many more women are running museums in charge of --
AMANPOUR: Including this one.
HIMID: Indeed. And being in charge of acquiring work. They listen to us more. We have a bigger say. But I bet the percentage is not 50 percent yet.
Until it's 50 percent, the battle is not really won.
AMANPOUR: Lubaina Himid, thank you so much, indeed, and congratulations.
HIMID: Thank you very much, indeed, for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It is an amazing exhibition.
And finally, this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we're taking the opportunity to look back at some of the lasting conversations we've had
this year. For instance, while a wave of support continues for the Black Lives Matter movement, in the 1960s and '70s America, the Anti-War movement
filled the streets and the courts.
The Oscar nominated film, "Trial of the Chicago 7" tackles this topic, telling the story of a group of Vietnam war protesters charged with
allegedly inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It is a riveting courtroom drama with a whole host of acclaimed actors, including
the man who brought "Borat" alive, Sacha Baron Cohen.
And back in April, I spoke to him and the writer/director, Aaron Sorkin, about what the trial means for today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Sacha Baron Cohen, Aaron Sorkin, welcome to the program.
What do you make of the reality in which we live mirroring, to some extent, your film and that era?
AARON SORKIN, WRITER/DIRECTOR: I'm not sure if we boomeranged back to 1968, like we were stretching a rubber band, or it's always been there, and
somehow Donald Trump uncovered it. This all started in 2006, almost 15 years ago now, when I was -- Steven Spielberg asked me to come over to his
House on a Saturday morning. And just to be clear, that's not common. I don't hang out with Steven Spielberg on Saturday mornings. He told me he
wanted to make a movie about the Chicago Seven. And I said, Chicago Seven, that sounds great. Count me in. Chicago Seven will make a great movie. And
I left his house and I called my father and asked my father who the Chicago Seven were.
So, I was just saying yes to working with Steven Spielberg then. But I did a lot of research. There are a dozen or so good books, some of them written
by the defendants. There's a 21,000-page trial transcript. But I always wanted the film to be about today and not 1968. I just never imagined how
much about today it would end up being. Just also want to mention the January 6 attack on the Capitol. It was actually Donald Trump, Rudy
Giuliani and a few others who stood at a microphone and did exactly what the Chicago Seven were on trial for doing, inciting a riot.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it is -- it really is extraordinary. And, of course, in a moment, we will also talk about "Borat," because that also has the Rudy
Giuliani episode in it. And it's just so --
SORKIN: I'm excited to talk about "Borat."
AMANPOUR: You will soon.
Sacha, you also kind of have a long history with Abbie Hoffman right? You play Abbie Hoffman in the film. He's the head of the Yippies, the Youth
International Movement. And you, though, I think, came across him, studied him when you were still at college.
SACHA BARON COHEN, ACTOR: Yes. So, 1992, I did my undergraduate thesis about Jews in the black civil rights movement in the '60s. And Abbie
features prominently. And he was one of many students who went down the South and risked their lives to fight against systemic racism. And my --
what I was looking into was, why were Jews 30 times more likely than American whites to be involved in the civil rights movement?
Then that group went on and formed the basis of the anti-Vietnam War movement. So, many of the Chicago Seven had actually been down South in the
Freedom Rides. And Abbie was somebody who I found fascinating, even back then, because he was using humor to undermine the establishment and mock
unjust power. So, he was inspirational even back then.
AMANPOUR: We have got several clips from the movie, and I want to play this one, which has -- we go between the real Abbie Hoffman and then a clip
from the movie. So, I'm going to play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBIE HOFFMAN, ACTIVIST: I think we're being tried with carrying a state of mind across a state border. And it's a very unusual law, and we're the
first ones to be tried under it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know why you're on trial here?
COHEN: We carried certain ideas across state lines, not machine guns, or drugs or little girls. Ideas. When we crossed from New York, to New Jersey,
to Pennsylvania, to Ohio, to Illinois, we had certain ideas. And for that, we were gassed, beaten, arrested and put on trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How difficult was it for you to emulate and translate and interpret him? I'm really fascinated that Aaron chose a whole bunch of very
distinguished British actors to play these iconic Americans.
COHEN: I mean, it was a real challenge, I have to be honest. Firstly, the accent is difficult, even for most Americans. To play a kind of Boston
accent is seen as the trickiest one. He also was very influenced by the comedian Lenny Bruce. And during the trial, he'd go on tour to raise money
for the Chicago Seven by doing stand-up, but it was political stand-up, and he was hilarious.
So, I mean, what I did was, I tried to do as much research as I could. He was very, very aware of the power of press. He would have been on this show
trying to spread his cause. And Aaron brilliantly shows in the script he wants to demonstrate where the cameras are. And he realized that the whole
trial was not to prevent them from being imprisoned. He knew they were going to jail. He knew that it was to convince people at home and make it
entertaining enough people that are home would turn against this unjust war.
So, just did a huge amount of research. The idea was not to emulate him, but to somehow kind of inhabit him. And then I had this incredible script
to play with.
AMANPOUR: Let me play this little clip of Eddie Redmayne playing Tom Hayden. Tom Hayden was less about revolution and more about sort of
progressive change. And Abbie Hoffman was more about major revolutionary change. So, we're going to play this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDDIE REDMAYNE, ACTOR: My problem is that, for the next 50 years, when people think of progressive politics, they're going to think of you.
They're going to think of you and your idiot followers passing out daisies to soldiers and trying to levitate the Pentagon.
So, they're not going to think of equality or justice. They're not going to think of education or poverty or progress. They're going to think of a
bunch of stoned, lost, disrespectful, foul-mouthed, lawless losers. And so, we will lose elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SORKIN: Well, the political tension between Abbie and Tom, which is really my favorite part of the film, because it's the personal part of the film.
It's the story of these two guys who they're on the same side, they plainly can't stand each other, and they each think that the other is doing harm to
And, to me, it's very much reflection of what you see in the Democratic Party today, of the tension between the left and the further left, people
who think change needs to be incremental and people who are tired of incremental change and want some kind of revolution.
AMANPOUR: Sacha Baron Cohen, much, much has been written about you. But I think it's interesting that not only do people consider you, obviously, a
brilliant satirist, comedian, but also a political and social activist. And I have heard you talk about not just this film, but also "Borat," in which
you had an agenda, you had a political agenda, certainly regarding Donald Trump and the four years of that administration.
COHEN: I don't perceive myself as having a role. I just felt compelled to do something. So, I was particularly worried and angered by Trump's
presidency. I was terrified about what would happen to America if Trump won again. And so, I did three things.
One, I ensured that I could make "Chicago 7," and I stopped "Borat" to do it. Two, I decided to make "Borat" to incentivize and urge any fans of mine
to go out and vote. It ended with a simple message, which was: Now vote. And that's why "Borat" was designed to infiltrate the Trump regime.
And the third thing I did was, I came out as myself and spoke about the danger of social media. And the reason I did that was, I believe deeply
that, if social media didn't change prior to the election, that its inherent bias towards misinformation and lies and conspiracies would help
Trump to win. So, I didn't want to be a bystander. I was inspired by the likes of Abbie Hoffman. And I felt those were the three things I could do.
AMANPOUR: You said "Borat" was to protect the American democracy from Donald Trump. You took some pretty extraordinary -- you went to some pretty
extraordinary lengths and took some pretty extraordinary risks. I mean, obviously, the end where the young actress was portrayed as your daughter,
and she went into interview Rudy Giuliani, I mean, of course, everybody knows about that scene.
It's viral. Everybody knows. But just how scary was it for you and for her, and what kind of security measures did you have to take them?
COHEN: Well, yes, I mean, we have been told that he would come with police protection. And he came with a cop. And we also knew that the cop would
check the room for any other one -- anyone who was there. And so, we built a hideaway that I stayed inside of for about an hour-and-a-half. It was a
little bit wider than me and about 6'5'' high. And I hid in there while the guy was casing the room.
And then when we left, well, the interview ended, and then the policeman told us to stay in the room, myself and Maria, and that we weren't allowed
to leave the room. And I was playing Borat, obviously. Borat doesn't know what chair is. What is this machine with full legs? And, suddenly, the cop
was saying, stay in the room until the rest of the police arrive. I would like, you have no right. This is my property. You must leave my property.
Suddenly, Borat was an expert on New York law.
And, so, this is false imprisonment. I warn you, my lawyers will be -- and we basically ran out of the hotel to a getaway vehicle. Giuliani then
accused us of a federal crime, and, therefore, got the room searched, which is hugely improper, because it's essentially our property because we bought
-- paid for the room. And I was advised -- and myself and Maria were advised to leave the state in a rush, because we had hired a cop to protect
He had immediately told Giuliani's cop where I was staying, the Airbnb I was staying, and the crew hotel, and then I was advised by a lawyer to
leave the state immediately, and I was frantically calling friends. Hi, how are you? Haven't spoken to you in a few years? Could I stay at yours? Sure.
When? How about in 20 minutes? And one of them said yes. And I drove out to Connecticut and stayed at his house, had a lovely time for a couple of
days. And the police impounded the equipment --
AMANPOUR: And just --
COHEN: -- for 24 hours.
AMANPOUR: And just -- I mean, obviously, Maria -- I mean, you're not American either, but she's definitely not American, and very young, young
actress. Were you concerned about her safety? Could -- I mean, did you sort of game- plan that?
COHEN: Yes. I assured her, as a producer, that I would look up to her. So, we had her security team, and we went through the escape route and
everything. And, obviously, if I had not intervened, the interview might have ended up in a rather sordid place. And I guaranteed her that I would
not let that happen.
So, obviously, the rest of the movie, I tried to ensure that she was not there for some of the more dangerous scenes, or she was not there in a
position where she could get hurt.
AMANPOUR: Aaron, I mean, you have been sort of giggling as this story is being recounted. But I want to ask you, as an American, director, writer,
artist, would you -- I mean, Sacha Baron Cohen stands out for really pushing the limits and really -- I think it's very courageous. Many people
might have their own views about it. But, you know, the Ali G persona, "Who Is America?" all the people who've had to quit their jobs or be turfed out
because of how they have revealed themselves.
SORKIN: Well, there's no doubt that Sacha is doing that. And, by the way, I think it's more than a little courageous. I don't think people don't
realize that Sacha regularly puts himself in danger, and would never, by the way, put anyone else in danger. But when he walks into CPAC or the
Giuliani scene, he is putting himself in either legal or physical danger.
AMANPOUR: Sacha, do you think you will do another "Borat"? Is there a time when you think, well, I have done that or I can't do that anymore?
COHEN: I plan to not do it again. I think "Borat" was a near impossible movie to make, because -- for the pure fact that, at its basis, if word got
out that I was making "Borat," it would have been impossible to make, because we're relying on real people not knowing who I am.
I think also the movie ended up being a lot more dangerous than I expected. And I think, quite frankly, you can prepare, but you rely on a lot of luck.
And there was a gun rights rally that I was at where I was chased off- stage. Somebody reached for his pistol and I was lucky enough that a
bodyguard grabbed his arm and stopped the guy doing whatever he was intending to do.
I think it's too dangerous to do anymore. And, again, I brought the gray suit out of the wardrobe for the purpose of convincing -- try to convince a
few fans to vote against Trump. So, that purpose is not there anymore. And now I don't want to take the risk anymore.
AMANPOUR: All right.
SORKIN: And if I can just jump in?
SORKIN: And I promise you I do not own stock in Sacha Baron Cohen. But Sacha was making "Borat" before and after "Chicago 7." He stopped making
"Borat" at to do "Chicago 7," promising the producers -- they needed to get the film out before the election -- promising the producers that we will
still be able to make it if we just take these eight weeks and stop.
The producers were saying, no, you will never be able to make it. He swore that they could. We wrapped, and COVID almost immediately began. So, no one
anticipated he was going to run into that. But as difficult as it must have been to make "Borat" out the first time, imagine the skill it takes to make
it the second time, when everyone knows who Borat is and can see him coming.
AMANPOUR: It is remarkable. And just final word, then, Aaron, to your film. What do you hope the legacy of "The Trial of the Chicago 7" will be?
What did you -- why did you want to do it?
SORKIN: Before anything else, I just want it to be movie that people like watching, a courtroom drama that people like watching. But, beyond that, I
hope it's a valentine to protest. One of the things that -- it took so many years to make the movie, but the thing that finally got it made -- I hate
giving credit to Donald Trump for anything, but he's what green-lit the movie, because, at is rallies, there'd be protesters, and he would start
getting nostalgic about the old days when we would carry that guy out of here on a stretcher and punch him in the face and beat the crap out of him.
I'll pay your legal bills. And everybody thought that athletes kneeling during the national anthem made them un-American, unpatriotic.
So, the Chicago Seven, they were called unpatriotic, un-American, anti- American, overly educated pansies. Well, they were anything but weak. They risked their lives. They risked 10 years in federal prison. And it's widely
accepted today that they hastened the end of a war. Stack that up against congressmen and senators who weren't willing to risk having a primary
opponent, and decide who the patriots are.
AMANPOUR: It is remarkable. And I would say very seriously that the four years of the Trump presidency really did revive protest, and I think in an
amazing way, on every single level.
So, Aaron Sorkin, Sacha Baron Cohen, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
SORKIN: Thank you very much.
COHEN: Thank you very much. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that is it for now. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.