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Interview with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet; Interview with "The Story of Russia" Author Orlando Figes; Interview with "The Territory" and Indigenous activist Bitate Uru-eu-wau-wau; Interview with "The Territory" Director Alex Pritz. Aired 1:00-2p ET
Aired August 25, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hello, and welcome to "Amanpour". Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE BACHELET, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND FORMER CHILEAN PRESIDENT: We have been receiving pressure from all countries,
from people who wants the publication, and from countries who believe that they shouldn't be public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: The U.N. under pressure over a long-awaited report on China's treatment of its Uyghur minority. Will its human rights chief honor her
pledge to release it? I speak to Michelle Bachelet as she comes to the end of her tenure. Then --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Ukraine from the beginning, and in its totality, has been created by Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Putin's imperial ambitions. As his war in Ukraine rages on, we look at the history behind those goals and Putin's manipulation effects.
Renowned historian and author, "The Story of Russia" Orlando Figes joins me. Plus --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: "The Territory". An on-the-ground look at the tireless fight of Brazil's indigenous people to protect their home, the Amazon. My
conversation with Director Alex Pritz and Bitate Uru-eu-wau-wau, subject of this mesmerizing documentary.
Welcome to the program, I'm Sara Sidner in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Crippling drought and scorching temperatures, China is experiencing the worst heat wave in decades right now. And it comes as the U.N. declares
access to a clean and healthy environment is a human right. It's just one of many pressing issues for its Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet. And
China is sure to be at the forefront of her mind.
She is facing intense scrutiny over a long-delayed report into its treatment of the Uyghurs. Stalling what many see as a vital chance to hold
Beijing to account. Bachelet's tenure comes to an end this month, and she has vowed to release the report before leaving office. So, that gives her
just a matter of days. And I started by asking the high commissioner about that report when we sat down just a bit earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Michelle Bachelet, thank you for joining the program.
MICHELLE BACHELET, U.N. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND FORMER CHILEAN PRESIDENT: Thank you. Glad to.
SIDNER: You've committed to releasing this report into Xinjiang where the United States says nearly two million Uyghur people are living in,
essentially, detention camps over the last few years. The E.U. parliament and the United States, fear that there is a risk of genocide. And it's a
serious risk of the Uyghur people.
But this U.N. report has been delayed for quite some time, for months. You have said you will release this report before you leave office, which is
going to happen very soon, in just a matter of days. Is the report imminent? When will it come out?
BACHELET: Well, we're working on it. And I had fully intended for it to be released before the end of the month, and we're trying very hard for that.
Now, we have received substantial input from the government of China. And as we do with every government, and every report, we need to carefully
review it. But we need to look at the facts because we always ask for -- ask fact comments. And we need to look at those fact comments. And if
appropriate, we have to be included in that assessment. So, we're working very hard to try to release it before the end of the month.
And why it has been delayed? It has been delayed because, in March, we decided -- we decide that we would visit China because of -- a visit was
agreed. First, to go -- a technical emission and then myself. And we did that. So, that was our priority for some time. And then we came back, we
could share with the colleagues who are working on the assessment what we saw there, to see if some of those could be, or should be included in the
And -- but the -- at the meantime, it's never been stopped the work in terms of looking at the situation and finding -- and discussing the
findings of the assessment. So, that's the situation now. We are working strongly on that. And we hope we can be able to do it before the end of the
SIDNER: High commissioner, I hear you saying we hope. But it doesn't sound like it's going to be done by the time you leave office. So, why is that?
What has caused this --
BACHELET: No, no. What I --
SIDNER: -- major delay?
BACHELET: No, no, no. But you have -- look at what I already said. We have received inputs that has to be seriously considered. So, we're trying to do
it. To have -- to try to do it to be able to be, you know, serious and professional to look at those inputs. To see if those input if we
appreciate that they're important, they have to be reflected on the assessment.
SIDNER: China has seen the report, as you said. They clearly are not all that happy with it. They have denied all allegations of reeducation,
torture, and the internment of millions of Uyghur people. I want to give you a sense of what the foreign ministry has said which I'm sure you have
already seen back in July 28, 2022. The foreign ministry spokesperson said this, we call on the office of the high commission to respect the serious
concerns of the Chinese people and everyone is speaking for justice in the world, stand on the right side of history and reject publishing an
assessment on Xinjiang based on false information and false accusations.
China, clearly, upset with what they have read. They have put in their input. But does this mean that China is putting pressure on you or the U.N.
to try and delay this report, or to stop this report from coming out altogether?
BACHELET: No, I mean, as you may imagine, we have been receiving pressure from all countries, from people who wants the publication, and from
countries who believe that they shouldn't be public -- publicized. But to be honest, that's not the way that we decide how we work. We follow our own
human rights procedures and human rights methodology. And no pressure will make any change on our decisions.
SIDNER: Can you give us a sense of what is in the report?
BACHELET: Well, it is the same things we already have mentioned publicly that we also informed when we finished the visit on what were the kinds of
discussion we had with Chinese authorities in terms of bringing up the issues of the allegations of arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment.
Particularly, targeting certain minorities, Uyghurs, and Muslims.
So, it's that kind of information. But, of course, this is an assessment that comes from interviews from people who had been victims of this
allegation. And NGOs and associations who also have been calling up on trying to step out on these situations that are on all of these allegations
of violation of human rights.
SIDNER: High Commissioner, you mentioned your visit to China. And while there, you did get -- and when you left, you did get a lot of criticism
from human rights groups, from some academics, using the words, you know, being soft on China. You also -- were you ever able to speak to any of the
Uyghur people while you were there in China?
BACHELET: We knew that due to COVID restrictions, we, and of course in other situation, we might not have a complete possibility to discuss with
everyone. We had -- before I left, I had meetings with the Chinese Uyghurs organizations, many different NGOs and associations, and people also from
Tibet and from Hong Kong. But also, with victims who have been in those places. And also, for families of people who have been -- who were in jail.
So, I had the opportunity to discuss with people in the diaspora who could tell me and conveyed to me their experiences directly. There, I did have
meetings with civil society. Meetings that we organized, not the government. And so, we can also hear their voices, and in Xinjiang in
particular in Kayskan (oh) and in Urumqi. We had the possibility of talking to people, Uyghur people.
SIDNER: The U.S. certainly cited concerns about the trip, and concerns that China would try to use your trip there for propaganda. What were your
concerns? Did that happen?
BACHELET: Well, first of, all I have to say, whenever you go to a country, in any country, they show their commitment to human rights when they accept
the visit of a high commissioner or a special reporter and so on. So, the important thing is, for me, the visit was not a mistake. Because we could
do -- I mean, it was the first visit of a high commissioner after 17 years. I mean, many people were talking about what was happening in China but
didn't have the possibility to raise this concern directly to the authorities.
For example, I did it with all the authorities I spoke to. All the ministers of ministries -- people from ministries I spoke to. Also, the
business community to NGOs, et cetera. And I also, for example, in Xinjiang, I had a meeting with the chief of the police. And just in that,
the day before, it has appeared this police files that were really well known. And I could raise decisions with them. And I could tell them
directly, look, we have received all these allegations, but can you tell us about it?
And of course, he said, he hadn't read it but he will look at it and he'll come back to us to inform whatever they need to inform. So, I have to say,
it was supposed -- a real possibility that very few people have had to raise direct concerns and direct allegations with the most important
SIDNER: Let's move on to the Rohingya and Bangladesh. You visited Cox's Bazar and you spoke with some of the Rohingya refugees that were there this
month. What did you see and hear from the Rohingya people?
BACHELET: I think what they all dream, they all want is to be able to be repatriated, to go back to Myanmar because it's their land, their home, and
to be able to contribute to the society. But, of course -- and they are asking us as representatives of the International Community, of the U.N. to
help them in doing so.
But, on the other hand, we understand that that's not the right thing because they do understand that to go back, they need to do it when they're
in able conditions to do it, when it's the right time. So, they're not going to be repressed again and beat (ph) to them again of what the horrors
they already have to live in. Unfortunately, as we all know, Myanmar, and particularly after the coup d'etat, does not have right now the best
conditions for people to go back there.
SIDNER: I want to talk about, you know, what's happening in Myanmar because you talked about the conditions not being right for the Rohingya
people to be able to go back safely. The United Kingdom's former ambassador to Myanmar and her husband have been detained by the military junta there
in Myanmar. What is your biggest concern with what's happening inside of that country?
BACHELET: Well, I'm aware of what you have just mentioned, and we're really concerned about it. And as you can imagine if a former ambassador
has been detained, or a husband, can you imagine what happened to so many other normal people without influences, without a country that can help
them, like the (INAUDIBLE).
So, yes, there's lots of people that are still detained. Lots of people who are being -- many houses are still being burned. There's confrontation
between the Arakan Army and Tatmadaw, but also between the national defense forces from the National Unity government and the Tatmadaw. And in all
those things, there's still air strikes against villages. And so, I think the situation is pretty dramatic. But on the other hand, there's a huge
number of people needed -- in need of humanitarian assistance. A huge famine and terrible economic, and health, and education situation.
So, they're really having a really bad time. So, I hope everything can be done to stop the violence from the Tatmadaw and ensure that Myanmar can
come back to a democratic process where people elect their leaders and they can live in peace. And peace among all the different ethnic groups that
live there in Myanmar.
SIDNER: Let's look at something that's happening on a global scale, and that is climate change. On July 28th, the U.N. General Assembly voted to
everyone, every human being has the right to clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. You're leaving office, we know, and have had a
long tenure. How do you think the U.N. can enforce this? What can the U.N. do to make this a real possibility for the people in the world?
BACHELET: I believe that this resolution needs to be ensured by -- every country need to develop their national mitigation plans and adaptation
plans. And of course, countries should be -- walk the talk in terms of the Paris Agreement. That it was an agreement that was signed that is valid.
But we need now to walk the talk. We need to ensure that developing countries -- developed countries can support developing countries to be
able to do their part.
Because, of course, when you go to developing countries, and even in Bangladesh, discussing with students at the university, they were saying,
look, this is the responsibility of developed countries. They develop but they, you know, created all this. They are the ones who have big emissions.
We are -- have very low emissions, and they are the ones who need to respond to this.
My answer is, no. We are all responsible because it's our present and our future. And we all need to do our part. But of course, developing countries
will need support. Technical support, innovation, and also financial support so developing countries can really do their part. And I think it's
really -- I think there has been a very important youth movement that is completely aware of this. And we're saying the leaders need to really act
now. That's what we need right now.
SIDNER: High commissioner Bachelet, I'm curious about what is happening in your country of Chile. You are a two-time president of that country. And
there are a lot of changes that are happening, including what appears to be a proposal to replace Pinochet's Constitution.
I know that you experienced a horrible time under that regime, you were tortured. What is your view of the proposed new constitution in Chile?
BACHELET: I truly believe that the proposal should be approved. And I will vote on the 4th of September here in Geneva. I will not be the high
commissioner anymore, but I will be voting for the approval. I hope the Chilean people will approve this because it's not perfect. It has to,
maybe, have some reforms. But there is a political agreement that if it's approved, it will be improved. That it will be the way to move forward.
Not to approve it will be maybe to stay for so long. How many years we tried to change Pinochet's Constitution? It was not possible. So, this
opens that possibility and that's a great step forward.
SIDNER: It sounds like a full-throated approval of this new proposed constitution. Let me ask you about what is happening in Brazil and the
elections there. There is a lot of fear of violence. There already has been some violence. Lula Party treasurer was assassinated by a Bolsonaro
supporter. The Brazilian police raided the premises of a prominent business who supported President Jair Bolsonaro days after leaked messages appeared
to show that the men were backing a potential coup d'etat. Are you concerned about what you are seeing in these presidential elections in
BACHELET: I have concern because President Bolsonaro has been speaking against the judicial power against the electoral -- electronic electoral
system. And they have been calling his supporters to demonstrate on the 7th of September against the judicial system. And I -- and this can lead and
it's igniting, if I would say, a sentiment against the institutions. And I think this is very dangerous for democracy, and particularly in a time of
elections where, you know, passions are increased and the environment gets pretty much polarized. So, it could trigger even more violence.
And the second thing is that, of course, if needed, when you're a person of a republic to say that you're going to respect the outcomes. He has said he
was going to respect the outcome if it's a transparent and fair election. But to be honest in Brazil, this has never been the discussion. They've
always had a very good electoral system.
SIDNER: United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, thank you for joining our program.
BACHELET: Thank you very much.
SIDNER: And coming up after the break, how President Putin is using Russia's past to shape the president. We break down his use of history as a
weapon of war.
SIDNER: Welcome back. Now, to Russia's war in Ukraine. President Zelenskyy has vowed revenge for a Russian rocket strike on a railway station that
killed at least 22 people. The harrowing attack darkened Ukraine's 31st Independence Day.
Vladimir Putin has long refused to accept Ukraine's independence and sovereignty. He used the claim, it doesn't really exist, as a pretext to
invade without provocation. But where do these imperialist ambitions come from? And is he manipulating history?
I'm joined now by historian Orlando Figes who, in his new book, examines, "The Story of Russia". Mr. Figes, welcome to the program.
ORLANDO FIGES, AUTHOR, "THE STORY OF RUSSIA": Thank you. Thank you for having me on.
SIDNER: You know, this is quite an undertaking. It gives me chills just to think of how long it must have taken you to put all of this together. But
you wrote the book, "The Story of Russia." So, what are we getting wrong in the west about Russia?
FIGES: Well, I think we've tended to look at Russia from our own perspective without really looking at how the Russians have seen their own
history, the stories they've told about the past, and the particular meanings that they attach to certain historical episodes. And that's in
Russian imperial historiography going back to the 19th century.
But many of those ideas are being used by Putin, and have been used by him since the beginning of his regime to build up a, sort of, sense of Russia
as an empire in which the Russians are the greater partners, the big brothers to the little Russians, as the Ukrainians are called in this
And in an essay, he wrote in July last year, which I think can be seen as the historical justification, even the declaration of war. He argued that
really, whenever the Ukrainians have tried to move away from Russia, to break this familial relationship with the great Russians, they fell under
the influence of hostile, maybe western powers. Trying to turn the Ukrainians against the Russians as a sort of anti-Russia, as he put it.
The other idea in that essay, which I think we can really see running through into the strategy of the war, as it's being fought now, is that he
argued in that essay that Ukraine really only had a statehood as part of the Soviet Union, which it joined as a founding member in 1922. And that it
had joined the union with less land than it was given on the dissolution of the Soviet Union. So, it was given Crime in 1954 from the Russian Republic.
And it was before in 1922, assigned lands which formally have been known as new Russia, that's the coastal region in the south of Ukraine.
So, Putin's, sort of, imperial-minded nationalism was, from the beginning, and I would put it back to 1991, irredentist in nature. Claiming Ukraine
had been given unfairly Russian historic lands in the south and the east, and in Crimea, which Russia should reclaim.
SIDNER: Let's talk about Russia and its resistance in general, with the society and the leadership, particularly to democratizing. I want to read a
bit from your book, and this is something that you had written through. The persistence of autocracy in Russia is explained less by the state's
strength than by the weakness of society. This imbalance, between a dominating state and a weak society, has shaped the course of Russian
history. I'm sure that the Russian population would take major issue with you saying that society is weak. So, what do you mean by that?
FIGES: What I mean is that throughout Russian history, there had been moments when Russian society could have organized and formed a democratic
movement to challenge the autocracy. It never quite managed to do so. I mean, if we take, probably the most significant time when that was
possible, 1917 itself when the empire had collapsed, it was only nine months before the Bolsheviks seized power and began to rebuild the
dictatorship through civil war.
Before that, I guess, we could look at the period of the late 19th century when local government was beginning to develop. And when in 1881, there was
even talk of bringing in some, sort of, constitution to enable a consultative assembly or parliament.
But on the very eve of that enactment, the Czar Alexander II was assassinated by revolutionaries. So, in other words, Russia, because of its
history, has always been polarized, I would say, between society and the state. But society itself has never really been given the freedom to
develop and form institutions.
The aristocracy was always essentially, sort of, a boy that served at a class of the crown and never really put down roots in local communities to
develop all those things, which in the west we take for granted. So, the patronage of the church, of courts, of great landed families who develop
local institutions, and so on. Those were all very weak in Russia in 1917.
And since 1991, you know, in 30 years, I would argue, very few institutions have developed on a national level in order to stabilize democracy. I mean,
where are the genuine political parties? Where are the trade unions? Where are the consumer organizations? Where are the housing associations? All
these things which, in a democracy, we take for granted as part of a civil society to balance against a state which in Russia has managed,
unfortunately, to reassert itself in this autocratic form under Putin's leadership.
SIDNER: You talk about the history. And this -- there's also a nostalgia, obviously, in any society for its history. But what is happening, you write
with Putin is that when he came to power, he really embraced the idea of the Soviet Union, once again. And even the Kremlin seems to be trying to
rehabilitate Joseph Stalin, the dictator, who was in power for 29 some odd years.
How do you explain this nostalgia by the population, though, when it comes to say, Stalin or the Soviet Union? Many of whom were too young to even
experience with the Soviet Union was like.
FIGES: Yes, of course, I mean, the nostalgia of the young, and generally, I would say, the nostalgia of many people in Russia today is based on the
catastrophe that -- as they see it that they went through in the 1990s when their old ideologies, state systems, security, sense of being part of a
great power, all of that collapse virtually overnight. And the democracy, and the market system that took its place, particularly the market system
many people found difficult to navigate.
So, Putin's nationalist historical mythology appeals to those who, in a sense, lost out from the liberal market reforms of the 1990s. And if you
look back to the certainties of the soviet past with the element of nostalgia. But I don't think we should get too carried away by the idea of
Stalin. I mean, I think what Putin is doing in his use of history is to reclaim, as a source of pride, all of Russia's history.
So, his -- one of his very earliest party-political propaganda posters for the United Russia Party, which came out in 2003, showed a map of the whole
of Russia. And inside it were 147, I think, portraits of great Russians. There was Alexander Nevsky, the medieval prince who had repelled the
Teutonic knights from the west and peace with the Mongols. There was Ivan the Terrible. There was Peter the Great. There was Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky.
And there too was Stalin.
And that was to say not that we should follow the model of Stalin, although, of course, Putin's strongman image plays to that cult. But it was
to say that if we are to be a sovereign democracy, which was the ideology Putin adopted from around 2006. If we are to be masters of ourselves, we
have to take pride in all of our histories. We mustn't beat ourselves up again over what happened in the 1930s and 40s.
So, that sort of sense of national patriotic pride is historically rooted in Putin's conception. And it's historically rooted in a way that the
Russians understand their own history. As a great power, as a great people, a civilization, but threatened because of its vulnerable borderland in
which it would include Ukraine. And therefore, needing a strong state, and needing a strong ruler to repel those external threats to their existence,
to their way of life, which is, in their imagination, spiritually superior to the west. Which has traditional family values. All of these, of course,
are mythical ideas to some extent.
But they're ideas that Russians, I would say, want to believe in. And that's really what I'm hoping people would get by reading "The Story of
Russia." That they will begin to see how the Russians see the world. How they understand their past? And from that, begin to understand the belief
system that we need to deal with because we will need to understand where they're coming from if we are to resolve this crisis in Ukraine.
SIDNER: You had mentioned sort of how Russia sees Ukraine earlier, but I want to talk to you about the global picture here and what the future holds
for Russia as we see, sort of Russia and China seeming to come together and cozying up to each other. But China is this huge economic power. Russia is
undergoing these economic crippling sanctions from the West right now and has been dealing with problems within the country for some time.
So, the two countries are cozying up now, what seems like for convenience. But quickly, can you give us a sense of whether or not you think this is
going to create a new global order or if once they get close together, they start fighting (ph)?
FIGES: Well, as a historian, I wouldn't like to predict too far. But certainly, you're right, Sara, that Russia is pivoting from the West to the
East, and it's done so in the past. And the Eurasianist ideas of people like Dugin that have been influential informing Kremlin ideology and
foreign policy. These ideas have the prepared leadership for a permanent turn towards the East.
So, I think that that is, for the foreseeable future, some sort of Eurasian block in which Russia becomes the junior partner, supplying fuel to Chinese
manufacturing and perhaps adopting the Chinese currency as it's stabilizing force, and drawing in other powers who share -- out of this authoritarian
nationalism that they may have, share some sort of resentment and hostility to the West because of the imperial history that they suffered in the past,
because of the double standards that many of them believe that Putin has correctly identified as this weakness of the West, and a reason why, as
more confident nationalist authoritarian regimes subscribing (ph) into a different set of values from those of -- the universal values as we like to
see them in the West --
SIDNER: And as we them. Orlando --
FIGES: -- might want to join Russia in this anti-Western block.
SIDNER: Yes. And we were seeing that play out. Orlando Figes, thank you so much for joining us and writing "The Story of Russia."
FIGES: Thank you very much for having me.
SIDNER: Still to come tonight, the fight to protect the forest. The Amazon's indigenous tribe putting their lives on the line to project their
SIDNER: One of the most important places on earth is engulfed in flames. The Amazon Rainforest is seeing its worst fires in decades. Some blame the
government and deforestation, while some areas of government blame natural events, and the indigenous people even.
This pitch battle comes to life in a new documentary, "The Territory." It profiles one indigenous community's fight to protect their land from
settlers and farmers. Here's a clip from the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It makes me sick knowing we're considered criminals, like we're the one hurting the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think there's somebody up ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Go, go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: I sat down with Bitate Uru-eu-wau-wau, the indigenous leader featured in the film, and director Alex Pritz. We discussed filming this
struggle that has turned deadly deep in the Amazon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Welcome to the program.
ALEX PRITZ, DIRECTOR, "THE TERRITORY": Thank you so much. Happy to be here.
SIDNER: Bitate, I want to start with you and ask you why you opened up your life to show people what is happening and expose who you are and where
BITATE URU-EU-WAU-WAU, FEATURED IN "THE TERRITORY" AND INDIGENOUS ACTIVIST (through translator): It was a long conversation with Alex and his team.
We talked a lot. We have to talk with everyone in the entire community. The elders were a little wary of the team. In our territory, the number of
journalists and filmmakers have come through and nobody really showed what was actually happening. No one was able to see the real repercussions.
We talked about how we wanted it to show our lives, to show what is happening within our territory. And Alex and Will and the entire team
really embraced the cause. I say, now, they are part of our family, our Uru-eu-wau-wau family. It was great to have them working with us.
SIDNER: Alex, can you explain to people who are not familiar with this what is going on in the Amazon?
PRITZ: You know, since the Portuguese arrived in Brazil, and then, you know, moving through the military dictatorship period in Brazil, there has
been a push into the Amazon. And the government has encouraged farmers and settlers to move into the Amazon, to chop down the forest and to turn this
wilderness into private property.
And so, that -- you know, that encouragement from the government has led up until today. And you see really clearly, even if you look at the map of
Brazil and South America, from coast to coast, you can see very clearly where indigenous territory is because that's where the last intact forest
The Uru-eu-wau-wau territory is 7,000 square miles of old growth rainforest, surrounded by farms that have no forest cover left whatsoever.
And so, it's a war on nature. It's a war on the people that are defending the Amazon Rainforest. And bringing that into the light, making that
visible was the goal for us with this film.
SIDNER: Let's now show a clip of this documentary film called "The Territory."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There are traces of people and motorcycles.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Someone must've warned them we were coming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They won't attack now. They're waiting for the right moment to come back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They have left for now, but this isn't over. We have to be ready when they come back.
SIDNER: Alex, there is a real tension in this film between all the different sort of factions that are at odds with one another. Can you
describe how you did that, and what those tensions were that you were trying to impart to the audience?
PRITZ: Yes. The motivation to reach out to these invading farmers and settlers came through early conversations with Neidinha, the activist in
the film who said, if you want to understand this conflict in its entirety and tell a story that is reflective of the reality that we are living in,
you need to talk to the people that are engaged in this violence and destruction because we are not as environmental defenders, the source of
And so, we took that as a strong mandate from her to go out and begin reaching out to these farmers and farmers associations that have set their
sights on protected land and protected indigenous territory. It was a difficult thing. You know, morally, ethically, logistically, it became a
whole new type of film covering a conflict, an active conflict on both sides.
But our producing team did a great job. Will Miller and Gabriel Uchida, especially, of keeping everybody safe, making sure we had strong
information protocols so that we were not passing information between the two sides of the story, that we were keeping everybody safe and making this
film in a responsible way.
SIDNER: Tell us what is happening in your life, in your community and if you feel a great danger.
URU-EU-WAU-WAU (through translator): The current government is very anti- indigenous and they have tried to destroy indigenous communities. They have tried to do away with indigenous people, and we are fearful.
I am here but I am worried about my community in the territory. My father protects one of the bases that is most affected. He is there, I am here. I
am very concerned about my community and I'm concerned about my daughter. I have a daughter, she's at the base, she is inside the territory. And we
never know what's actually going on.
We are all facing threats. We are all concerned. And we faced this even before Ari was murdered. We lost an indigenous person who is a guardian of
the territory. And he was killed. He was killed because he was protecting his territory. And then, a few months after, this other person was
assassinated, Ari was killed. He was assassinated.
We know what's happening in the territory, we are familiar -- we are aware of the threats. We know that this is happening in the territory. At the
same time, I'm quite happy to be representing my people, but we are afraid of what happened. We never know what's going to happen in Brazil. We never
know what could happen from one day to the next. But we need to overcome our fears to be able to represent our people. And we are here to also
confront the government, the current government in Brazil.
SIDNER: Alex, can you tell me about the danger in what you have so aptly called this film, "The Territory"? Can you tell me how you showed what the
danger is to the indigenous population and to, you know, Brazil's forest as well?
PRITZ: For us, it was just about being there when things happened. You know, we wanted this film feel present tense, we wanted it to feel -- to
convey the same level of urgency that we were understanding from Neidinha and Bitate and everybody who is living in this conflict. And for us, that
meant being there with a camera, ready when Neidinha gets a phone call that somebody's kidnapped her children.
It meant being there, you know, in person through all of these events. Sleeping in hammocks with Bitate and Uru-eu-wau-wau. Living with Neidinha
during these really critical moments, to be able to convey that urgency to the rest of the world
SIDNER: Alex, you spoke to some of the farmers who say, look, this is the land that we also should be able to have and cultivate. And one of the
farmers said to you, I don't really believe there are people -- indigenous people living there. Just completely denying it. What did you think?
PRITZ: You know, I thought, wow, this sounds really familiar. You know, I hate to say this, but as an American, a lot of the ideologies that these
invading settlers and farmers carry is the same ideology that animated the westward expansion and displacement and violence towards indigenous people
in this country. This idea of manifest destiny, the idea that the land is blank, that there are no people there. That's one of the founding myths, I
think, of this country. Something that was carried into Brazil as a fellow colonial state.
And, obviously, that's false. You know, there are people living in these places before, you know, colonial settlers arrived. But I think that's one
of the lies that these farmers need to tell themselves, that this land is empty, this (INAUDIBLE). A blank spot on the map before they come and
colonize it. But it was a familiar story to me as somebody who was born here in United States.
SIDNER: Bitate, I want to ask you about something that was said in this film. It was really powerful. That the Amazon is not only the heart of
Brazil, but the heart of the world. Why do you think that?
URU-EU-WAU-WAU (through translator): I believe that the Amazon is the heart of the world because we know that where there are trees, we have
life. It's a very different climate. Our way of seeing things and living is one of protection. We have a huge forest whereby we can protect the planet.
We have a lot of carbon capture that happens here. With deforestation, this mass deforestation in Brazil from 2009 to now, we've seen a mass increase.
We can feel it. It's palatable.
We feel that the temperatures are rising in Brazil. We feel this in our territory as well, inside our Uru-eu-wau-wau territory. We see the mass
deforestation, and this is affecting everything. The elders already feel it. They can feel this climate change.
We were fishing earlier this year, a number of people from my village, including the elders, and they said, wow, the climate is changing. The
temperatures are changing. There used to be so many more fish species and animal species and we feel that there aren't as much anymore, and we see
Our mission is to protect. Our mission is to protect the planet. We see these purpose -- this human caused fires are also increasing. We see these
fires. We see deforestation. And we see the safety of the isolated indigenous people, they are no longer protected. They're not connected.
They have no contact with the outside world, even with us, and there are fewer of them. The Amazon is the heart of the world because we can breathe,
it allows us to breathe with our trees.
SIDNER: Bitate, what is your message to the world about what is happening there and what you see as the consequence of what is happening in the
URU-EU-WAU-WAU (through translator): Strengthen indigenous people, I believe, is my strongest message. The indigenous people are the front lines
to protect everything that needs to be protected. The rivers, the forests, the source waters, the flora, the fauna.
We have a number of species and animals, trees, flora, fauna, rivers, they often start in the Amazon and they're very important for all of Brazil.
We're here to protect all of this. I'm young, I'm 22 years old. I'm here to protect my territory. I'm here to protect my worlds. I'm here to protect my
family. And I'm here to protect my territory.
SIDNER: People have been killed, including journalists who have tried to tell the story before. How much danger did you feel?
PRITZ: What we saw happen to John Phillips and Bruno Pereira, journalist and an indigenous expert, is indicative of the violence that people living
there are experiencing all the time. You know, I think about that. And then, I think about the uncontacted indigenous people who -- you know,
people might not even know if somebody died very deep in the forest. There might not be evidence or reporting of that.
And so, it is a conflict. It's an active war happening in the Amazon. We certainly felt it. I would get photos of me -- sent to me from numbers I
didn't recognize. There was always a sense that we were being watched. But for me as someone who lives in New York, who returns to the United States
between trips to Brazil, the danger to me is nothing compared to Bitate, Neidinha and those people that are living there next to, and a lot of
cases, the very same people that are invading this land.
SIDNER: If you could sit down with the leaders of Brazil -- we're are in the midst of an election cycle for the presidency. If you could just sit
down, face-to-face, what would you say to them about yourself, other indigenous people and what's happening in the Amazon.
URU-EU-WAU-WAU (through translator): I would say that the government is not supporting the indigenous people. We see this so clearly. It should be
supporting indigenous causes. It's actually killing the indigenous people. And I would say that the government needs to give us the opportunity to
protect our territory. We need to strengthen the different organizations that protect the environment, the IBAMA, the FUNAI, because all of these
organizations, these government organizations have been gutted.
Brazil's heart is indigenous. And the largest territories are indigenous territories. And yet, we're not valued. This is an election year. It's very
tense for the environmentalists, for the activists, for the indigenous people. We think that environmental issues are very critical. We're very
tense. We're very nervous about it. And the Bolsonaro government has said that if they win again, they're going to make it very difficult for us.
I hope he doesn't win. I hope that we can have another administration that we can talk to, we can dialogue with, so that we can address indigenous
issues and improve our lot. But it is quite complicated. I hope that Bolsonaro doesn't win because it's impossible to deal with this government.
It's a true genocide against the indigenous people, especially during -- what we saw during the pandemic.
SIDNER: Concerning the Amazon, if nothing is done and it continues the way it is, what will happen to the world essentially in your mind?
URU-EU-WAU-WAU (through translator): If we don't protect the Amazon, and if we don't protect the indigenous people, I don't know what is going to be
like in 50 years. But if it continues, the world is going to end. Growth is going to increase. The tensions are going to increase. Poverty is going to
increase. We already see this. We're seeing this everywhere, throughout Brazil.
We're seeing these high extensive climate change. We're seeing flooding. We're seeing droughts. Without the Amazon, without Brazil, the world won't
exist because it's going to be catastrophic changes in the Amazon and in the world. Amazon protects everything. It's the barrier that protects the
SIDNER: I'd like to thank you, Bitate and Alex, thank you so much for coming on our show and expressing really powerful views about what's
happening in the Amazon.
PRITZ: Thank you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: The Brazilian government responded to accusations made in the film, saying the assertion that it allows unlawful deforestation and could
be responsible for a genocide is preposterous. The Brazilian government reaffirms its commitment to protect the human rights of all Brazilians,
including, of course, indigenous people. The Brazilian government is fully committed, it says, to reducing deforestation rates in Brazil, in
particular, in the Amazon.
It says it has investing millions in the supervision of indigenous lands and increase the budget of enforcement agencies to protect the environment.
When we come back, a legend in his field. We'll reflect on the life of an iconic war photographer.
SIDNER: And finally, we remember legendary Vietnam war photographer Tim Page, dead at the age of 78 from cancer. His still images from the Vietnam
War rocked the world to the front lines in what he called the first and last uncensored war. The truth was laid bare in his film.
Page was a young freelance journalist willing to hop on military helicopters to get to the most intense fighting. Incredibly, he was
pronounced dead in 1969 after being struck with shrapnel in a land mine explosion. He, of course, came back to life and spent most of the '70s
recovering. But not even that stopped him from returning to Vietnam and Cambodia. Tim Page's legacy will live on through his photos, books, and
exhibits, recognizing the impact of war on humanity.
That is it for us for now. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New York.