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Interview with U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Former Director and Former Chief Medical Adviser to the U.S. President Dr. Anthony Fauci; Interview with "What's Love Got to Do with It?" Screenwriter Jemima Khan; Interview with The New Yorker Staff Writer Emily Witt. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired April 28, 2023 - 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 CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, FORMER DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES AND FORMER CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO THE U.S. PRESIDENT:
If we go into the next pandemic in a discombobulated way, where no one knows what the truth is or who is saying what, it's going to be even worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Dr. Anthony Fauci, his experience as chief medical adviser and why science is the only way to get through the next pandemic. And what went
right and wrong handling COVID?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about love?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to love the person, you win.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What? Like Stockholm syndrome?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: "What's Love Got to Do with It?" Filmmaker Jemima Khan talks to me about arrange marriage and her multicultural rom-com ahead of its U.S.
Also, ahead --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMILY WITT, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: It's just this kind of black box that science doesn't quite understand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The future of fertility. Investigative journalist Emily Witt takes Michel Martin to the cutting edge of reproductive science.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
Three years after the strange new killer disease swept the globe, the world is now moving on from COVID and all that pain and loss. President Biden
confirming America's state of public health emergency will end on May 11th. While the U.K. has shut down its COVID app that was required to prove
vaccination status to enter certain public spaces.
The toll is staggering to contemplate. Official estimates say the virus killed more than a million people here in the U.S., and about 7 million
worldwide. But my first guest tonight says that is an underestimate. The real death toll could be 20 million, and it would probably have been double
that without the vaccine.
Dr. Anthony Fauci was undoubtedly the face of the COVID response as chief medical adviser to the president. We met up here, in New York, as he
received the prestigious Calderon Prize from Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Dr. Fauci, welcome back to our program.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, FORMER DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES AND FORMER CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO THE U.S. PRESIDENT
Thank you. Good to be with you.
AMANPOUR: And obviously, congratulations on this major award for public health. At the Gala event, you gave a pretty profound and passionate plea
to the public health community and the audience. What were you trying to tell them?
DR. FAUCI: Well, the point I was trying to make is that we have been through an extraordinary ordeal with the three and a quarter year of COVID-
19, and there is a lot of activity now looking at lessons learned, what went right, what went wrong, how can we better prepare for and respond to
And unfortunately, I think, as everyone realizes, there's been a lot of politicization that has gone on over these last three years of things that
should have been purely public health issues. There's been a lot of misinformation and disinformation and distortion of truth and reality. My
plea to them was that we really needed the serious academic, scholarly approach to an analysis of what went on rather than giving way to some of
the obvious politicization that goes on.
We're living in an arena now, which is very troubling, and that is what I call the normalization of untruths where there is so much distortion of
reality that the public gets inured to it, it's kind of like it's normal, it's natural, no problem, you know, people are just saying that, that's a
very dangerous situation to get into, because when you do accept the normalization of untruths and you don't have pushback from people who
actually are using evidence-based and data-based statements, then reality gets totally distraughed.
So, I think that's dangerous, not just in the arena of public health, I actually think, and not to get too melodramatic about it, that it really is
sort of erodes at the foundations of democracy.
AMANPOUR: But you have -- had to go through and you've talked about it. I mean, let me just read what you said to Congress. I've had threats upon my
life harassment to my family, my children, I've seen phone calls because people are lying about me, i.e., lying about you and about the science. You
have, you know, a phalanx of guards 24/7, or, you know, keeping you safe.
What does that say to public health officials, and to yourself, about waging this war in the future or this struggle for life?
DR. FAUCI: Well, to me, it tells us we have to do it and we cannot be dissuaded from doing it because of the threats. You know, I am a visible
public figure, but many of my less well-known colleagues who speak out the truth about things almost instantaneous, from the time they do that, I
don't know whether it's bots or real people start just making harassing threats to them. We can't yield in the face of that, because it's such an
important issue and that's one of the reasons why I will continue to try and inspire and encouraged, particularly younger people, to get involved in
medicine and science and public health, and perhaps even public service, which I think that so important.
AMANPOUR: Because the key, obviously, is, right, again, lives. What keeps you up at night about how, given the experience of what happened during the
COVID pandemic, nationally and globally, the next pandemic will be addressed?
DR. FAUCI: That's what I worry about. If we go into the next pandemic in a discombobulated way, where no one knows what the truth is or who is saying
what, it's going to be even worse than what we've seen right now. Because, you know, I tend to look at this in two buckets of preparedness and
response. One is the scientific preparedness and response and the other is the public health preparedness and response.
What was a resounding success was the science, I mean, to be able to have the sustained investment in basic and clinical biomedical research that
allowed us, literally, within days of getting the sequence of the virus to begin the vaccine development program to be in a phase one trial in 65
days. At the end of 11 months, to have a vaccine that was safe and effective, that is beyond unprecedented.
I mean, if you had -- if we were having this conversation 10 years ago, I would've told you that's nuts. There's no chance that that's going to
happen. That was the result of a sustained investment in basic and clinical biomedical research. Where what did not go as well was the public health,
the infrastructure, the communications, the ability to get data in real- time as opposed to waiting in weeks and months to make the data that would inform decisions you'd have to make, that has to improve.
AMANPOUR: The COVID report that's recently been released by a bipartisan group of mainstream medical community and others have listed a bunch of
things that could've gone better. COVID war revealed a collective national incompetence in governance. There was a delay in responding because
authorities could not track the outbreak's progress until patients showed up in the E.R. Poor communication during both the Trump and Biden
administrations. And here, 500,000 deaths could've been prevented even though U.S. spend $5 trillion.
You've been asked a lot about this "Monday morning quarterbacking." Are these valid points?
DR. FAUCI: I think they are, for the most part, valid points. And if you take each one of them, you could see what the underlying reason for that
was, we have in our country, first of all, the idea of being able to get data in real-time. It is embarrassing that other countries like Israel and
South Africa and the U.K. have health systems where data is fed in in real- time, and you know what's going on this next day or the next week. Whereas as it takes us sometimes months to figure out what happened. And when
you're dealing with a rapidly moving pandemic, that is not acceptable. That's the first thing.
The other thing is the divisiveness and the politicization that occurred, where you had from the leadership, from the beginning, a denial that this
was a problem, and that's when I had to come into an unwanted conflict with the president when he was saying, this is going to go away like magic, it's
going to be gone, you know, don't worry about it, and I had to come forth and say, you know, that's not the case, I'm sorry. I don't mean any
disrespect for the presidency, but this is not correct.
The other thing that they bring up is the fractionated nature of our approach. You know, one of the beauties of our country is that we're a very
diverse country geographically, culturally, economically and we have 50 states and more territories who have the ability to do things their own
way, that is a -- that's beautiful when you want to be able to accommodate the diversity in the country.
But when you have a common enemy, the virus, and you have people doing things in multiple different ways, that is not a coordinated response to a
pandemic. So, many of the things that you mentioned, Christiane, are really absolutely valid points.
AMANPOUR: You know, there were many instances, and we could play many and repeat many, you're obviously very familiar, but, you know, the fisticuffs
with people in Congress, presidential candidates, senators, governors, DeSantis, you know, and other people who just basically blamed you. They
basically blamed you. They said everything you did was contrary to saving lives. As if you were in full charge.
So, I realize you're going to say, well, no, I wasn't in full charge. But I want to know what you think you and the community got wrong. Was the
closing of the schools too draconian? How much of a delay did the fact that nobody fully understood the asymptomatic spread of this, nobody figured out
that it could actually bus through certain vaccine levels as well?
DR. FAUCI: Yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: What are the real takeaways, the real lessons for public health?
DR. FAUCI: Yes. I think we have to get away from the blame game because so many of the things that you have mentioned were unknowns at the time. It's
so easy, and I made that comment in my response to one of the questions that Davis Wallace-Wells asked me in the --
AMANPOUR: This is in "The New York Times" profile.
DR. FAUCI: In the "The New York Times" profile. And I didn't mean it as an affront to him, but I said, you know, this is really big time Monday
morning quarterbacking here, which is what it is. So, rather than have a blame game, and that's one of the things that we have to stay away from
because there were things that happened and it was a moving target and there were things that you did not know at the time and you had to, out of
necessity, make a decision.
And sometimes the decision was partially right. For example, let me give you an example of a partially right decision. I think the idea, when you
having trucks, that were cooler trucks, pulling up to hospitals in order to put bodies in because the morgues were overflowing and the hospital beds
were being challenged that you had a triage, you had to shut down. I don't think anybody who has any realistic evaluation knows that you've got to do
Once that's done, then the thing that you need to now go back and analyze, I don't think anyone would argue with the fact that you had to shut down,
is how long you keep the shut down and how complete it is, how does that relate to schools when you shut down schools, if you do. And I have been
very vocal about this and I think that people who like to point fingers, I say, go look and look at the tape. You know, the tale of the tape, when I
kept on saying over and over again, we've got to get the children back to school as quickly as possible. We've got to get them in school safely and
we've got to make sure that they are not essentially out of school, at home, getting it over the negative consequences.
Different parts of the country interpreted that differently. There were schools that stayed closed far too long and longer than they should have
and there were those that essentially didn't close at all. You know, my daughter is a school teacher in New Orleans, they closed out for two weeks,
and we're essentially open for the rest of the time and other schools --
AMANPOUR: The result was?
DR. FAUCI: And the result was, you know, they didn't do too badly. I mean, the kids got infected, a lot of them did, you know, virtually. It was very
difficult to determine, and say, well, if you shut down this long, you get no negative effect on the child and minimum effect on the infection, those
studies weren't done. It was just trying to do as best as you can in these circumstances that you are in.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, because you are no stranger to very, very difficult public health decisions. You know, obviously, we all know you
came massive prominence during the HIV. There was a huge backlash from the community against you at the beginning, and then you sat down, talked to
them, and it became an amazing partnership and you are responsible for the antiretrovirals and it had an amazing effect on public health.
Can you describe or contrast the backlash you had from the AIDS community at the beginning compared to the MAGA community or whoever was against you
DR. FAUCI: Right. Yes. It was as different as apples and watermelons. It was really different. And the differences are sometimes misunderstood. Back
in the '80s when we were dealing with mostly young gay activist community, what the point they were trying to make, they were trying to get the
attention of the scientific community and the regulatory community to say, we want to be part of the process, of the design of clinical trials, of
attention paid to this, of the rigidity of the regulatory process, because the scientific and regulatory process worked extremely well for other
diseases but was ill suited for the emergent nature of a disease that was mysterious and that was killing young men.
They didn't even though they were infected until year later when they were starting to deteriorate from a health standpoint. They wanted us to say,
listen, you're having clinical trials. There are no real drugs available. We want to be part of the design of the clinical trial process. We want
less rigidity in the regulatory process.
So, what they did to gain attention, they became theatrical, iconoclastic, confronted, disruptive. They got my attention. They did. And when I
listened to what they were saying, it was eminently clear to me that what they were saying was making absolutely perfect sense. And if I were in
their shoes, I would have been doing the same thing that they were doing. That turned me around completely and made me embrace their activism and
say, now, we've got to change the system. We've got to get you involved from the ground floor, in the design of the trials, in the regulatory
process so that we can work as a team.
That is very different from a group that is pushing back with misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories, outright lies,
essentially saying, vaccines don't work, making up things that we're putting chips in vaccines, getting people to not want to essentially
utilize lifesaving interventions, that was very painful to me as a physician, because my entire DNA has been to alleviate suffering and save
And when you have people who are pushing back against you, but what they're pushing back against is trying to give disinformation that would get people
not to utilize lifesaving interventions, that is a big difference between the anti-Fauci attention getting that the gay activists did, which was
based on a noble end point versus pushing back and spreading disinformation. They're two entirely different.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, the whole lab leak theory and the origin of this, I think, you still say it's not clear.
DR. FAUCI: Right.
AMANPOUR: But what is your view today about that?
DR. FAUCI: Yes. Well, first, you have to keep an open mind because we don't know definitively what it is. And when you don't know definitively,
you've got to keep an open mind to all possibilities. If we do get a definitive determination, I will certainly embrace that fully.
Right now, because we don't know what it is, instead of pointing fingers and blaming, we should be saying, it's either one or the other. That being
the case, let's right now, start doing things to mitigate against the possibility that this would happen again versus that would happen again.
And the two possibilities, as you know, lab leak versus natural occurrence.
Having said that with an open mind, as a scientist, I have to look at the data and say, although either is possible, that doesn't necessarily mean
they are equally probable. And if you look at the data that has been accumulating over the last year or several months, even most recently, it's
pointing much more strongly towards a natural occurrence. But it hasn't been definitively shown.
So, as long as that still remains the situation, you must entertain the possibility of both, and that is exactly where I stand.
AMANPOUR: So, finally, how do you feel, personally? You've been through the wars. You've been through the wringer. How is Anthony Fauci?
DR. FAUCI: I'm actually fine. I really am. Certainly, it's been a trying and difficult time. But as I've always said, and I mean that sincerely, you
know, as a physician and as a scientist and someone who cares deeply about individual health and public health, even at a global level, I just focus
like a laser beam on what my mission and my goal is. And my mission and my goal is to do whatever I can to safeguard the health and the safety of the
American public, and then, therefore, indirectly of the world. Because we are such a leadership.
Everything else, quite frankly, Christiane, I mean, is noise. The noise of the attacks, and even the somewhat amusing noise of the idolization. But
both of them are unrealistic. I know who I am and I know what my goal is, and that's how I get through this and it doesn't -- the only thing that I
don't really like about it is the impact it has on my family, my wife and my children when you get attacks like that. But apart from that, the rest
of it is noise.
AMANPOUR: Thank you very much indeed. Congratulations on this honor.
DR. FAUCI: Thank you very much. It's good to be with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A true public servant. Next to the role of rom-coms in modern life. The genre is experiencing a surge with a lot more diversity in
depicting different cultures and with more female perspectives.
The producer and screenwriter, Jemima Khan, explores religion, family and arranged marriage in her cross-cultural movie, "What's Love Got to Do with
It?" It follows a young British woman documenting her friend's assisted marriage to a Pakistani woman. Some of it is based on her own experience,
as the wife of Pakistan's cricketer turned prime minister Imran Khan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, your ideas for your next film.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could follow my childhood friend to marry a stranger chosen by his parents.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My big fat arranged wedding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meet the parents first.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Love contractually.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a matchmaker.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No photos?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no photos yet. You're thinking with a (INAUDIBLE) in it. You're thinking with a no, no, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A big success in the U.K. The film opens here in the U.S. next Friday. We sat down to talk about why telling this kind of story really
Jemima, welcome to the program.
JEMIMA KHAN, SCREENWRITER, "WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?": Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: I need to start by saying that we've been friends for a long, long time, more than 20 years. I knew you when you are married to Imran
Khan and afterwards. I didn't know that you were planning on writing this film. But where did you get that inspiration?
KHAN: It's taken a long time. It took me over 10 years from having the first idea to seeing it on screen, and it's obviously inspired by my 10
years that I spent living in Pakistan. I mean, pretty much every character I have met somewhere along the way on my journey, and also, every line,
every joke, every anecdote is still pilfered from real-life. But it just took a very long time to realize.
AMANPOUR: And you wrote it on your own?
KHAN: I did. I have a production company. I make documentary companies and TV, mostly for the U.S. and UI.K. So, I was doing this in my spare time. It
was important to me to do it on my own because I felt that -- well, apart from anything else, it was just a real challenge that I set myself. But
also, I didn't want the sort of assumption that I'd just given the storyline and to my dears and hadn't actually done the real graft. And boy,
was it a graft.
AMANPOUR: It's a rom-com with a twist.
KHAN: I'm glad you think that.
KHAN: I mean, yes, people have said that it's sort of subverted the genre of rom-com. I'm a big rom-com fan. And that I like rom-coms that are very
grounded in reality. I don't -- I guess I'm not such a fan of broad comedy, and one of the reasons why we went for a director who isn't actually known
for his lulls, Shekhar Kapur, who directed --
AMANPOUR: Because he's Oscar -- yes. He's the director, but he had done "Elizabeth" --
AMANPOUR: -- before.
KHAN: Before working title, the same company that made this.
KHAN: But the reason we went for someone who is very interested in that kind of truth of the story was to add that layer of kind of authenticity
and believability. I call it a rom-com working title who basically defined the genre, rom-com, call it a rom-com. He thinks it's a family drama,
because it definitely has something, hopefully, serious to say behind the laughs.
AMANPOUR: It's definitely a family drama. And I just want to get back to your family because, you know, and you've mentioned in other interviews,
that when you went, you left university, you married Imran, you went to live in his rather conservative Pakistani family in Lahore, right? And you
are all jammed together in one apartment within in-laws and like.
And you and Imran were the only love match of that family, you say. So, what did you see around you, assisted and arranged marriages underway?
KHAN: Yes. And I think that the film sort of chops that trajectory in terms of my understanding of what an arranged marriage might be in modern-
day Pakistan, also, in the West as well. I was -- as you say, it was the only what they call love marriage, none arranged marriage in my ex-
husband's entire family history.
I went there and moved in with -- as is the tradition in Pakistan, with his entire extended family. So, I lived with his father, his three sisters,
their husbands, all their children. There was something like 26 of us living in this one big family house in Lahore. And so, I got to see how
arranged marriages worked in real-life. I also saw the children grow up and then, have arranged marriages themselves, when they reach their 20s. And I
was kind of involved in that process. I was sort of on the committee to select the suitable spouse.
So, suggest -- I shouldn't say select. Because it's become known as assisted marriage, it's more about an introduction. And what I realized
throughout this period is that some of those arranged or assisted marriages, which were absolutely based on the idea of consent, were very
romantic. And based on a really deep love, but it's a different premise. You don't start with love, you end with love.
You know, they always used to talk about, it's better to simmer that boil. You don't fall into love, you walk into love. And it's sort of a different
idea. And I think the idea for the film came about because when I came back to the U.K. after 10 years, some of my friends were thinking of having
They were in their early 30s. And wanting to look for a suitable father for those children, and we would have a conversation about what would happen if
you were to take purely the love at first sight, you know, and the chemistry out of -- out that component out of the choice, who would your
parents or even your friends choose was for you and what might that person be like and would it work? And I thought, gosh, what would happen now if I
hadn't had my back story and I let someone choose for me?
And that's where near Lily James's character gets to after following the journey of her best childhood friend, Kaz, who is having an arranged
marriage. And she finally defers to her mother and says, all right, go on, have a go.
AMANPOUR: So, that leads me to play to the first clip that we have. And this is Lily James' character. Remind me of her name again? Zoe?
AMANPOUR: Talking to Kaz about all of this over a game of ping-pong back in London. Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LILY JAMES, ACTRESS, "WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?": Dare I ask, what about love?
SHAZAD LATIF, ACTOR, "WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?": You know what, it's just a different way of getting there. You don't have to start with love,
you end with love, you know. And overtime, you're going to love the person you are with.
JAMES: Quite like Stockholm syndrome.
LATIF: You know my parents aren't making me do this right?
JAMES: No, I know. That's a surprise.
LATIF: Do you know what the U.K. divorce rate is?
LATIF: If I know.
JAMES: 50 percent?
LATIF: 55 percent. And guess what it is for arranged marriages? 6 percent. Boom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, look. She's an English girl with her English eccentric mother, living next to a Pakistani English family. What were you saying
about the vision, the lens or whatever people talk about right now, on these issues?
KHAN: I think it's very easy to be kind of, from our sort of western viewpoint, quite disdainful about this seemingly outdated idea of arranged
marriage, whilst we also, you know, have quite -- sometimes we are letting algorithms randomly select men for us, you know, a date for us.
AMANPOUR: On the dating apps?
KHAN: On the dating apps. And I'm not sure that it's as easy to say one is right and one is wrong. And so, I -- and that sort of is -- you know, I
went in with those pre-conceptions when I first went to Pakistan. I thought that it was a sort of medieval cattle swap that had the no place in the
modern age, and I came away thinking, there's something to this and there's some very happy arranged marriages I've seen. And I think that we tend to
have a somewhat, you know, blinkered idea where even in some of the mainstream films where they touch on arranged marriage, the arranged
marriage candidates are really suboptimal and are kind of the butt of all the jokes.
So, I think I partly wrote this film as a response to a very common lament that I heard from my Pakistani friends in Pakistan, which is about how they
feel their country and people are depicted on screen in the West. That western mainstream, TV and films, whether it's like "Zero Dark 30" or
series like "Homeland," often it's the Pakistani and certainly, the Muslim characters who are the shady ISI operatives or the terrorists or somehow
And so, we don't have any terrorists in our rom-com, and I think that's why I wanted to do something a bit surprising, because when you look at the
news and you -- you know, about Pakistan, it's often seen as a very scary, dangerous place, and scary dangerous things, as we know, do happen there.
But there is another side to Pakistan, and that's also a Pakistan that I experienced, which is a fun and colorful and joyous and hospitable place,
and I wanted to make a film that celebrated that, that was -- that displayed the beautiful old architecture, the music, the colors, the
costumes, the -- you know, and the music was actually very special to me in particular. But I've --
AMANPOUR: Well, look, it certainly hit a major nerve. From what I gather, from to release to whenever you can measure it, it was the biggest grossing
English made film, for that period of time, when it had its cinema released earlier this year in the U.K. And now, it's going to be released in the
But you got lots of lovely commentary from the community, which I've been sent. Here's one. I stayed up all night with my parents having the most
sobering conversation about their arranged marriage and their life back in the '90s in Pakistan. After watching the film, it felt as if a border was
broken, and through the generational divide, it was love that liberated us.
And then, another says, the story is not just showing a British Pakistani family, but it's relatable to every south Asian community. The real sides
that are never shown in any other movie are seen in this. Watching this movie was a real evaluation of family bonds and relationships.
Were you worried? Were you at all fearful? Was the company fearful that somehow this would miss the mark?
KHAN: I mean, if it had and if British Asians or if Pakistanis in Pakistan and India had not reacted positively to the film, regardless of the box
office, generally, I would have considered it failure. But we have been so lucky and I feel so touched by the unbelievable outpouring of love for this
film, particularly from the British Asian community. And for me, that's why I made it.
It was -- I did say it was my love letter to Pakistan, but also to the South Asia and to South Asian talent. And so, I had so -- we've had so many
messages like that on social media from people who've -- you know, where it's helped to have conversations with parents and people from a different
family, from a different generation, and I feel incredibly heartened and touched by those messages.
AMANPOUR: In the United States, you have said, you know, in terms of the stereotype, and the certain islamophobia that's existed certainly since
9/11, how are you going to talk about it in North America?
KHAN: I understand the fear after 9/11. Obviously, I understand that there is this fear around Islam and Muslims, but that's why I wanted to make this
film and make a film where I showed Muslims who are very much not the baddies, which is -- reflects the absolute majority of Muslims in the world
today, and I hope that it will resonate in kind of mainstream white America, but I don't know.
AMANPOUR: But that's really interesting, and it probably will. I mean, there is a huge community there. There's a huge community in Canada. And,
you know, this may land at the very right time, like it did here. But interestingly, I just heard that this year, between Hollywood and all the
other production centers, some 36 rom-coms are being released. The genre is getting a surge.
KHAN: Yes. I mean, we -- ours was -- it's obviously a very diverse cast and it's a very diverse behind the camera teams. Every single department
had Pakistanis or British Pakistanis in it. And we have a South Asian director. And I think it's really important. And I do think things are
really changing in terms of what gets made and what we see on our screens. I think that there's been a massive shift in the last few years.
AMANPOUR: I think your star, Shazad Latif, said, it changes people's neural pathways.
KHAN: Did he say that?
AMANPOUR: Yes. In one of the interviews. So, I'm going to play another clip that we have, which is actually, this time, it's in Pakistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES: It's a question. What did you think of her, in real-life?
LATIF: She's great.
JAMES: Yes. But did you fancy her?
LATIF: Zoe, please, don't say that on camera. Come on. So annoying.
JAMES: Fine. And are you nervous about the mehndi tonight? Actually, just tell me what that is.
LATIF: Well, in Pakistan, we really like to draw at the wedding celebrations. Just over -- was over three days. First is the mehndi, which
is tonight. And then, kind of like a stag and a hen brought into one, expect your grandparents are there, which is lovely. And the groom isn't
stripped naked and tied to a lamppost.
And then, the next day is the nikah, which that's the actual marriage. And shadi (ph), then valima. But the main thing is you have to -- look like you
have enjoyed your first night together.
JAMES: What if you haven't, you know, like your first night together? No comment?
LATIF: No comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How much of it were you able to shoot in Pakistan and have you been able to show in Pakistan? Has there been an opening or premiere?
KHAN: Yes. So, it was COVID when we were shooting. So, we couldn't actually travel there, but that's a second unit. What you see there is the
Pakistan scenes were shot. Actually, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who I'm sure you've interviewed.
AMANPOUR: Yes, yes. Great documentary.
KHAN: Fantastic documentary maker and a good friend stepped in and oversaw the Pakistan shoot for us and did all those scenes. It was without the
stars. We couldn't go there to --
AMANPOUR: So, it was kind of CGI but real --
KHAN: Yes. It was a bit of magic of cinema. But those scenes are shot in Pakistan, but we just had to green screen the actors and we use body -- we
used doubles and, you know, we did all sorts. But, yes. So, all the architecture and everything you see is Pakistan.
And then, extraordinarily, we managed to create old haveli, a Pakistani style house, a courtyard -- built around a courtyard in London. And
amazingly, this amazing singer, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, who place himself in the film and is the biggest -- pretty much the biggest singer in South
Asia, came and acted himself, because he happened to be in London at that moment, even though he's based in Pakistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LATIF: You see, he's been murdered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KHAN: So, we have this wonderful scene. And honestly, I defy Lahores to watch it and tell me whether there's any -- you know, whether it was Lahore
or London, all of them have said it's incredibly hard to tell the difference.
AMANPOUR: So, I'm not going to do a spoiler alert about who ends up with who, but what is next for Jemima Khan? What's your next Hollywood, or
rather, film venture?
KHAN: Well, I've got some documentaries that are coming out this year. So, I have a few things. And I hope to write something again. You'll probably
see it in 2054.
KHAN: That's how long it takes.
AMANPOUR: No, you've got it down now. Less than 10 years. Thank you so much.
KHAN: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: Good luck.
The film is excellent. It comes out here in the U.S. on May 5th.
Now, from rewriting cultural assumptions about love to the cutting-edge science of new life. Questions about having children to the writer to Emily
Witt, to the limits of reproductive research. In her latest piece for "The New Yorker," "The Future of Fertility," which reveals her discovery. And
she explains to Michel Martin how a few biotech start-ups could be about to change the game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Emily Witt, thanks so much for talking with us today.
EMILY WITT, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: It's great to be here.
MARTIN: You are -- before we get into your article, "The Future of Fertility," I wanted to ask you about your book from a 2016, "Future Sex,"
critically acclaimed, certainly, you know, made a lot of waves. You explore sex and desire in the age of the internet. Is there a through line between
that work and this latest report on fertility?
WITT: I think there really is, because that book was about examining three major changes. One of which was people getting married much later, or not
at all. Waiting longer to kind of settle down in the traditional sense, if they ever did. And it was about changes in technology and also, changes in
our idea of what a family is and what a relationship is in a broader spectrum of identities and practices and exploring all of that. And I think
this does fit in, because it's very tied to the new timeline that many of us live under. And also, I don't know, new ideas the family, especially, I
MARTIN: It's my understanding that it really kind of stemmed from your own personal questions, you know, about some of these issues. What were some of
those questions? Do you still have them?
WITT: Yes. So, I started writing that book when I turned 30. And this kind of the -- you know, my parents have been married for more than 40 years and
the relationship that they had and the traditional family that I grew up in just seemed very elusive to me. And I wasn't sure if it was some kind of
personal failing or some kind of structural change, but I noticed many other people around me in a similar situation and demographic changes that
also reflected that many people were going through this at the same time.
And in the end, I spent most of my 30s in relationships. But now, I'm 42 and I am single again. And you know, I think the book was, in many ways,
about trying to figure out what was going on in my own life.
MARTIN: So, in "The Future of Fertility," this is the piece we want to talk about that published in "The New Yorker." You profile new biotech
start-up firms working on producing reproductive cells but without human ovaries. Would you just tell us a little bit about the two companies that
you focus on? You know, what exactly are they doing? If you could explain this so that, you know, all of us can get it? And how does their research
WITT: Yes. So, in the past 10 or 15 years, there's been major advancements in stem cell technology, which means that you can use a cell in your own
body, a skin cell or a blood cell, turn that back into a cell that has the potential to become any other kind of cell in the body. And that's been
used to study cardiac problems, pancreatic problems, all kinds of things. But one kind of cell that they might make is an egg cell or a sperm cell
that might help people with fertility issues.
So, I focused on two companies. One is trying to make an egg cell from a stem cell and the other one is trying to create, basically, the ovarian egg
environment in which an egg cell matures. So that an immature egg cell could be taken from the human body and then, put in this environment with -
- which would -- kind of make the process of IVF but hopefully, be a little less invasive and time consuming.
MARTIN: And there were major breakthroughs, I think before your piece was published. Can you just tell us what they were and why they're important?
WITT: Yes. So, they've achieved this in mice but they haven't achieved it with humans yet. And right before I went to press, one company, Conception,
managed to bring the human egg cell to the follicular phase, which -- it's formed what's called a primary follicle, which means it's kind of ready to
progress into a mature egg cell. So, that was a big advancement that shows the technology has a lot of promise.
And then, similarly, this other company, Gameto, which is creating this kind of like lab made ovarian environment using lab made cells had a
similar breakthrough creating that environment and published a paper about that.
MARTIN: There's so many dimensions to this. There's the question of what this could potentially achieve for people. So, let's just talk about that
first. You know, why is this something that is appealing to people, not just the sort of scientists as kind of a thought exercise, can we do this,
but how this has the potential to benefit humanity, for want of a better way to put it?
WITT: Yes. I think in a few ways, I mean, first, it would be really useful to couples suffering from infertility that want to have a genetically
related child. Especially, egg cells in particular are kind of scarce and they can be difficult to mature and grow and extract from the human body.
So, that's one -- you know, just couples suffering from traditional fertility issues.
But one area that I was especially interested is in female reproductive longevity. As we all know, women have a shorter reproductive lifespan than
men do. They are bored with all the eggs they ever half and usually, by the time they are in their early to mid-40s, those eggs are no longer viable
And, you know, we live in a time where we are living longer, we start relationships later, and that's caused a lot of -- that's a big burden for
a lot of women to try to fit, you know, their career, their relationships, their childbearing, all, you know, before the end of their 30s. So, I think
there's a real desire to prolong that timeline a little bit, which can have really massive repercussions.
And then, the third demographic that this might affect, our same sex couples that would like to have a genetic child. So, Conception, the
company that's working on making the human egg cell was -- two of its cofounders are gay men. And using that technology, it's possible that a
sell taken from a male donor, using this technology, could be turned into an egg cell with two X chromosomes. So, that's part of the promise too.
MARTIN: So, let's talk about some of the concerns that have been raised about this kind of work. Should we -- let's just start with the safety
questions. Are there any?
WITT: Yes. There's huge safety questions. I mean, this is human life. It's not -- you know, it's even testing a pharmaceutical, it's human life. So,
yes, they would have to prove -- you know, assuming they accomplish this, which they haven't yet, they would first have to do animal studies across
multiple generations to ensure that, you know, the genetic imprinting has happened kind of intact, that there is no inherited diseases that could
only manifest a couple of generations down the line. And then, there would need to be clinical trials with humans too.
And of course, like, nobody would be confident about doing this unless it really felt safe, as big as the desperation is on the part of people
suffering from infertility.
MARTIN: But then, there's the broader sort of social concerns. You know, one is that -- one of the things I was really glad that you raised in your
piece is that, you know, the research into women's, you know, fertility overall or women's health overall, can we just say it, has not been a
priority of the scientific establishment ever? Ever?
And so, you know, one of the scientists whom you interviewed just said, hey, how about could we figure out like, you know, just some of the things
that affect women's health? Could that be a higher priority?
WITT: Yes. I mean, so, you know, there's very little understanding of the causes of infertility beyond this biological timeline. But scientists don't
even really understand, first of all, why menopause happens, what, you know, triggers the timeline of it, when it starts, why there's such a large
window, it can -- you know, it can happen to a woman in her mid-30s or it can happen to you when your 50, and nobody really understands why or the
effect of ovarian aging on aging and the rest of your body.
Nobody really -- one thing I learned in this article that was really interesting to me is that humans are pretty unique among mammals in that
their ovaries age basically more than twice as fast as the other organs in the body. Including chimpanzees, our closest relatives, they can reproduce
almost to the end of their lives.
So, there's just -- it's just this kind of black box that science doesn't quite understand, and the argument is that, yes, if you could better
understand that process, there might be a less kind of high intervention way of treating infertility, or at least prolonging reproductive longevity.
MARTIN: And then, there's the tension you described in your piece between, you know, how these biotech start-ups share their information with the
world versus kind of traditional academic scientific research. Could you talk a little bit about that? Because I think that kind of intersects with
both the sort of core safety concerns and kind of the broader social concerns that other folks might want to weigh in on. Could you talk a
little bit about that?
WITT: Yes. So, this technology involves the creation of human embryos. There's limits on federal funding into that research. There's restrictions.
And that means that most of the money can come from the private sector or from states, but it means that biotech, in the private sector, has a major
advantage in doing the research over traditional academic channels.
And I guess the worry is that the profit motive might perhaps, you know, obscure some of the basic science that needs to be done that an academic
researcher working at a slower pace might be able to achieve more thoroughly.
MARTIN: How do you think that this also intersects with the intense debate going on right now about abortion access, you know, primarily in the United
States? I mean, it's just -- it really -- we're just in such an interesting moment because you can't help but notice that in the United States, there's
kind of a major political push to restrict abortion access. And so, how do you think this research intersects with that -- this debate we are having
over access to abortion?
WITT: Yes. I mean, unfortunately, in the United States, pretty much any research that has to do with pregnancy, embryos, fetal tissue is extremely
polarized and politicized. And that means that this technology likely even if they are able to achieve it, one legal scholar told me that she expects
it would be more likely to be approved or tested in, for example, the U.K. before the U.S. because of our polarized political environment.
On the one hand, you have a lot of people suffering from infertility, that want to have children. On the other hand, you have these obstacles to
scientific research that are rooted in a moral debate about conception and the beginning of life and all of that.
MARTIN: Some of the researchers in your piece fear that this research -- we'll call it IVG research for the sake of, you know, shorthand. And IVG
stands for in vitro?
WITT: Gametogensis. So --
MARTIN: Gametogensis. There are some who are concerned that this will mean a return to the idea that a genetic connection is essential for families.
What were some of the discussions that you encountered around that question?
WITT: Yes. Certainly, it raises the question of why is a genetic connection so important that you would go to such kind of extremes to
achieve it? And for some people, that might seem self-explanatory. For others, I don't know. Is it worth it?
You know, LGBTQ families, in particular, have fought for a couple of generations now for legal recognition of a social relationship with their
child that's as meaningful and important and deserves as much legal recognition as a genetic one. And yes. So, all of these questions will be
coming up, I think, if this becomes real.
MARTIN: If and when IVG becomes available to the public, you have to assume it will be very expensive. I mean, in vitro is expensive. So, is
there a concern or do this come up in your reporting that this kind of further, I don't know, kind of widens the gap here between the haves and
the have-nots? This is like yet another thing that we're -- you know, if you delay childbearing, then this becomes like the privilege of the few as
opposed to something that human beings should be able to do?
WITT: Yes. That's absolutely a concern. I mean, already assisted reproductive technologies is not -- there's not equal access to it. It's
often not covered by insurance. And even if it is covered by insurance, it still can be very expensive. So, this would almost certainly fall under
And there's another question that's been brought up, which is that, if you have kind of unlimited supply of egg cells and could make more embryos,
then it's also easier to do genetic selection on those embryos. So, you know, people might try to optimize for health outcomes or, you know, any
number of factors and it might result in the kind of divide, where you have one part of the population that's kind of trying to create these extremely
healthy children, and another part, maybe, that might not be able to have the access to contraception or terminate a pregnancy that's unwanted.
So, you know, there's a lot of questions we'll have to ask about what this means, who has access. Yes, what it offers to the people that have access.
MARTIN: And who gets to have a say in that? You know, what process is there by which the public gets to have its say about this and express its
values around this?
WITT: Yes, I mean, it will be -- you know, I think we have a lot of historical precedents to go on, even contraception and, you know, access
that's so uneven, so limited, people want it, can't get it. It's sometimes covered by insurances, in some places, they don't want to cover it. It's,
you know, an extremely polarized question and I can only imagine that this will be similarly polarized and that, you know, there will be kind of a
feminist -- likely I assume, a sort of feminist articulation of what it would mean to have reproductive freedom in this context as well.
MARTIN: And before I let you go, another universal question that affects all of us is climate. There are those who argue that, you know, lower
population does benefit the planet, who feel overall, this emphasis on increasing, you know, population, maintaining population, just is the wrong
direction to take, given the status of the planet. What are your thoughts about that?
WITT: Yes. I do have thoughts about that. I mean, overall, the population of the planet is still growing and is expected to grow at least towards the
latter end of the century. But when you look at many countries, including the U.S., the fertility rate is a little bit below replacement rate, I
think, where the decline in people having children in their 20s has not been made up by an increase in people having children in their 30s.
I guess I would say that I don't think this is some kind of pro natalist push, where you are pushing people to have more children than they want to
have. I think who this really affects are people that are having trouble even having one child.
You know, and I think most of us can agree that having a child for people that want it, you know, we should do everything possible for those people
to be able to have a child. And the population question, you know, I don't -- you know, the way the world has been trending, the United States, many
countries in the world now, people just don't want to have a lot of kids. So, I don't think we really have to worry about how this would affect the
kind of macro trend of population stabilization, really.
MARTIN: Emily Witt, thanks so much for talking with us today.
WITT: Yes. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that's it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.