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tv   Amanpour on PBS  PBS  March 3, 2018 12:00am-12:30am PST

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welcome to amanpour on pbs. tonight, satirically speaking, he's walked all the corridors of power, from the white house to downing street and now the kremlin, armando ianuccio joins me with his new film "the death of stalin." russia is not amused. plus education to the rescue. author tara westover tells us how books save had hadar life and how she broke out of her mormon survivalist family.
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good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. i'm christiane amanpour in london. satire thrives on caricature and parody. but what happens when reality is more outrageous than fiction? for the writer/director armando iannucci, the trump white house is even funnier than his fiction val "veep" on hbo. he's also created "in the loop" which was based on his hit tv series "the thick of it" about the british government and the iraq war. his latest work "the death of stalin" which opens in the u.s. next week is dark, witty, beloved by reviewers and the public alike, only not in russia where it's banned. speaking toiannucci
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about this and lampooning in general. welcome to the program. >> nice to be here. >> so the death of stalin, a right satire on a very, very violent moment in history, how did it go down in russia? >> well mixed in that russian s that have seen it have said it's funny but true. russian journalists who've seen it, one told me within five minutes he felt he was back in the soviet union under that kind of time when you had to think carefully about what you say and, indeed, what you thought. the russian government less enthusiastic. >> not so much. they banned it right? >> yes, you have to get a license for it to be shown in the cinemas and we were given the license and two days before the release, the ministry of culture decided to change their mind because it's making fun of politicians in the kremlin. >> it is.
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and some of the former soviet republics, kyrgyzstan and others followed suit. and the applaud ye-- audience applauded it. we're not making fun of people. we have to be respectful of what happened in the soviet union in the time under stalin. there are no jokes about that. the jokes are all on the people inside the kremlin. >> and particularly at this time which was the death of stall lip, the immediate sort of shenanigans following his death and we're going to play a short clip and then we'll talk about it. so this is just as he's died. >> you're not auditioning for the bolshoi, who are you th najinski? come on. >> i have a bad back. >> this is the heaviest part. >> all right, ready? three, two, one -- lift!
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>> whoa, whoa, whoa. >> all right, this way. >> are you wearing pajamas? >> can we stop twittering like fish wives at the market? back up. back up. >> i mean, it is funny. who knew you could get so much humor out of -- >> carrying a body around. >> the fact that somebody died and they had to carry his body out. >> and we investigated what happened. it's true he was responsible for his own death in a way that he had a stroke but he had so terrified his guards and told them never to interrupt that they heard him collapse and a whole day went by before anyone went in the room. then the politburo arrived, they did call a doctor for hours because they were terrified they might call the wrong doctor. stalin had put several doctors on a list, he was paranoid they were trying to poison him so there was a question mark over the doctors. so this sort of -- in it's
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fitting that someone who lived by terror kind of dies by terror. >> and steve buscemi is nikita kruschev and he ends up being the next leader of the soviet union. but i guess, you know, it is interesting that it comes out now when there's a nascent cold war between russia and the west. particularly the united states. and some of the official russians' criticism has been that it's sewing discourt, that it is a historical poison, right at the time they're being accused of doing the same thing with their election and cyber hacking. >> exactly. i think they were worried it might affect the election and i know putin is very very on to the idea of interfering in the election of another country but i made the film. i was interesting -- i did "veep" on hbo for four years and i knew i wanted to do something about authoritarianism and i was thinking about doing a fictional
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dictator, american dictator, british, i don't know. something general was happening in the ether around europe. we had these strong man figures like berlusconi in italy and erdogan in turkey and, of course, putin and there are nationalist movements, far right movements, he pen in france so something was happened and then i got sent the graphic novel on which the story is based and i read it and i thought well, this is the story i want to tell because this is true. >> so let's move when you talk about strong man theory of history right now. it is prevalent in the west as well. we've seen what's happened in the united states and frankly, president trump openly admired some of these leaders you've just been talking about. >> he's absolutely fascinated by china, north korea, putin. he almost in a way -- >> duterte, erdogan. >> exactly. almost like he's jealous they're able to click their fingers and something happens where he has a constitution and checks and balances. >> have you ever thought of
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doing a current updated version of "veep" for instance? >> i don't envy the writers on "veep" at the moment because i don't think any fictional version of what is happening now is as absurd, as terrifying, is as gobsmackingly entertaining for want of a better word as what is happening in real life. >> we're going to play a clip from i believe it's series four of "veep." >> thank you mr. speaker, mr. vice president, members of congress, my fellow americans. i'd like to begin today -- by saying a few words. >> what were you saying there, though? there's so much that one could unpick just in that scene. the fact that there hasn't ever been a female president of the united states. >> that's true, yes. ere isn't a script in front ofso
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her. >> i respond to what i see and exploring at the time washington as we were preparing "veep." i was amazed by how much senior politicians were run by 22 and 23-year-olds with a degree in terrorism studies from georgetown university and when i did "in the loop" they built up to iraq and we discovered that people were drawn into write the new iraqi constitution who were 24 and didn't really know how to buy and sell a house or car and yet were telling iraq how a new democracy should function. >> so you are obviously not just a writer, you are political and really interested in current events. >> i'm fascinated by politics and i want politics to work. you write about what you passionately believe in. my father was born in naples and he in the second world war he fought in the partisans.
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he didn't take out british citizenship so he couldn't vote and i said why? he said the last time i voted mussolini got in. it's not stable and permanent, the way you nurture is it by participating. >> you are very good at satire. it reminds me of "west wing" which was the anti-cynical white house political drama and i just ran into janney, she was the spokesperson at the white house and people loved the goodness that came out of that fictional white house at the time. >> it's a question i've always wanted to ask aaron sorkin, does he feel he could write "the west wing" now with that kind of -- >> do you think he was right to write it en? >> it's one of my favorite
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shows. it got me inspirednto wring political comedy so so i'm responding to what is happening now. the politicians honed in on the swing vote, it was all about the swing vote and took for granted people on the left and people on the right. >> do you think that an armando iannucci who is the king of satire these days and potentially, you know, another series, could you shift your center of gravity into something that is sort of wholesome, less satirical, less cynical and bring people in to what you say you want them to be? >> strange you ask me that because the next thing i'm about to shoot a film version of charles dickens' "david copperfield" set in the 1840s, it's for waont of a better worda family costume drama. i'm doing it because the book is a modern psychologically insightful book and it has a lot to say about how we behave with
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each other today. >> can't let you go without playing a clip from "in the loop" so we're going to play a clip and mindful of what you said, all these young hipsters with degrees from georgetown university, this is this clip. >> let's get started. my assistant should be bringing in coffee shortly. >> your assistant? >> yeah. so item, we need to have a conversation about the mood of the british parliament, the bumps in the road ahead and what not. >> i'm sorry i don't -- this situation here is -- is this it? i mean, you look like you should still be in school with your head down the [ bleep ]ing toilet. >> your first point there, the offense, i'm going to have to take it. your second point, i'm 22 but it's my birthday in nine days so if it would make you feel more comfortable we could wait. >> don't get sarcastic with me, son. we bombed this [ bleep ] to the ground in 1814 and i'm all for doing it again. >> it's hilarious all these years later.
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malcolm tucker was the downing street -- the prime minister's communications secretary having a meeting with somebody who he clearly thought was his inferior. but you were saying something about the so-called special relationship. or were you? >> yes, what i said to the actors when we were filming scenes going out to washington for the first time, i said remember the first time you went to l.a. and got an agent who promised you "you're gonna be a star" and how after a week of meetings you came home thinking "nothing happened." i read the accounts of the blair administration talking to the bush administration in the leadup to the iraq war. they were excited. they are star struck to be in the west wing, to be in the oval office and they kind of lost their dignity. >> armando iannucci, thank you for joining me. >> pleasure, thank you. now we turn from a veteran screen writer to the budding new author whose life story is being hailed as one of the hottest books of 2018.
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tara westover was born into a family of strict mormon survivalists in idaho. for the first years of her life, her very existence was kept secret. she didn't go to school, she didn't have access to doctors, and she didn't even have a birth certificate. at 17, she stepped into a classroom for the very first time and ten years later westover achieved a ph.d. from cambridge university. in her new memoir "educated" she describes that incredible journey. and this week she told me how her relationship with her family became collateral damage. tara westover, welcome to the program. >> thank you for having me. >> you have an incredible story. it's a really dark story. it starts, anyway, like that. did you see it like that? did you see your childhood as something that you dreaded or was it a happy childhood? >> i didn't see it as dark. in a lot of ways i had a really beautiful childhood. i grew up on this beautiful mountain in idaho, but because
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my father had some kind of radical beliefs, we were a bit isolated. so i was never allowed to go to school or to the doctor, i didn't even have a birth certificate until i was nine. >> you didn't have a birth certificate? >> not until i was nine years old so because we didn't go to the school or the doctor, according to idaho and the federal government, we didn't exist. >> give me background as to how you ended up in this isolated place in the conditions you describe. >> i don't quite know why he had these beliefs. i mean, i think he's a bit paranoid about things so he just developed these ideas about doctors and hospitals and the government. he was kind of concerned they'd been taken over by some kind of nefarious organization, the illuminati, the new world order, he called it a lot of things and the beliefs were sincerely held and he had a junkyard so we would get injured quite a bit and then we wouldn't get medical care and i think for people it's hard to understand that he wasn't trying to cause us pain, it's not that he didn't care about us, he really believed
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that that was the right way to treat these kinds of injuries, like when my brother's leg was lit on fire and it was covered in third degree burns and we treated that at home. my mother made a salve out of lobellia and comfrey. she's a talented herbalist. i think he believed it was the best thing. >> was your mother a willing participant? you say she was a talented herb herbalist, she was a midwife, she was educated. >> she was. i think she was not as radical as my father was but over time she became that way and so i think she's one of the most intellige intelligent, talented people, forget women, people i've ever met but she does tend to see things the way he sees them. >> and didn't stand up for you. >> no. i've always felt like there were two versions of my mother, the version when she's alone with you and the version when she's with my father and i don't know
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which version she is. one of the sadder parts of the story is i had an older brother who for many years was violent to me and other people and when i confronted my mother about this she believed me and had seen things and knew that i was telling the truth but my father didn't. later when i confronted my father, he didn't believe me. and then my mother flipped and stopped believing me. >> what did he do to you? how old were you? >> it had started when i was about 15. he could be incredibly kind and self-sacrificing but he could also be very cruel and manipulative. he would grab me by my hair and haul me down the hallway and stick my head in the toilet. he would call me a whore. it was a word that would identify with because i heard it a lot when i was young and it took me a lot of years and -- education really helped me, education in the broad sense being able to get your grip on what's happening. >> all this stuff was happening to yound there was no social
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services around, there were no neighbors who could see these kind of kids potentially in danger. >> no. my family, we were isolated. we went to church and there were certainly people in the community that would reach out and try to intervene but in the state of idaho, it's not illegal to not school your children. there's kind of a vague requirement you give them a comparable education, but that was never checked. i never took an exam, i never wrote an essay, i never saw a social worker or anything like that so there was no enforcement of that. >> how did you get out? how did you get educated? >> well, when i was 16, i decided i would try to educate myself. an older brother of mine who had gone to school and had -- my parents hadn't been as extreme when he was a child so he had had an education, more of an education, i should say. and he told me i should try. so i taught myself some algebra and some grammar and kind of skimmed through the a.c.t. and was admitted to brigham young university. so i was 17 the first time i set
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foot in a classroom. >> did you know what was happening in the world before you went to university? >> not really. i knew about, you know, the constitution because my dad was a big constitutionalist. but there were a lot of things i didn't know about. one of my first lectures i raised my hand and asked what the holocaust was because i had never heard of it and i think people thought i was being anti-semitic. i think they heard it as what is this but i meant it as what is it? i think i've heard of some context where jewish people were killed but in my head it was something like the boston massacre where a handful of people had been killed. the scale of it, i was never taught that. >> you were born in 1986, some time in 1986. >> september. >> okay. and did you know about, i don't know, the civil rights movement? people like martin luther king, president kennedy, all the big -- >> i didn't know any of the presidents, i didn't know the civil rights movement. and that was something that changed my conception of the world.
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my family -- my brother did have a nickname for me that was a slur and -- >> what was that? >> the "n" word and i had heard it my whole life. >> the "n" word? for you? >> yeah. well, i would work in the scrap yard and i would get black on my face and that was a nickname he used for me when that happened and i had heard that my whole life and i had always laughed because i thought it was -- i don't know what i thought about it but i thought it was funny and then i learned about the civil rights movement and i realized how recent that had been and i realized that that word had been formed as part of a discourse that had only one purpose and that was to dehumanize people and learning about that history changed not just how i saw history but my family and how we were unwittingly allowing ourselves to become foot soldiers in this conflict. >> do you think your father was part of a cult? what was his vision? what was his intention? was it just for his own family or was it part of a broader religious belief? you are mormon. >> my dad -- i think it was very
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specific to him. and he would have liked to convince more people because he really believed it but it was basically our family and the way that he's lated oisolated our f specifically. it wasn't a cult so much. >> as you grew up, did you start wondering whether he was quite normal? did you think he had a mental illness? >> as i grew up i thought he was right and everyoneelsewas wrong. i think at university i learned about mental illness. i think as a child i thought there were two categories, that you could be insane or you could be sane and if you were insane you fell in love with turnips and whatever. i didn't have a category in my head that you would be functional and something could still go on. that really helped me when i was -- that was one of the formal bits of my education that helped me see my life. he can want us to be safe and not be able to do that because of the way his mind worked? >> so tell me about the junkyard. it does feature prominently in your book. it was a place where you played, a place where you worked for your father and a very dangerous
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place. tell me what happens to you. >> i was in a bin and my father moved the bin, he wanted me to be in the bin so that he could take it up and then he was going to dump the scrap and after the scrap was dumped he wanted me to get in and settle the scrap so more would fit so he decided one to -- it would be faster if i wroed rode up the scrap. but a piece of metal shifted and held me in place. i couldn't move. >> could you screen? >> no, it was really loud, i was try bug he couldn't hear me. so what happened is he effectively raised it and dumped it while i was inside and luckily i didn't go forward when the piece of scrap that had me pinned fell out. i was able to throw myself over the side. if i had gone through the front it would have been like going through a meat grinder but i went over the side and fell and that was the moment my father came over and said "what happened?" i internalized that as my fault. i should have done something differently. >> is that when you decided you had to get out of this?
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>> i think i really wanted to get out of the scrap yard. i watched my siblings get seriously injured and i wanted to get out and i think this relationship with my brother that was violent and had a lot of problems, when my brother tyler came back and said "you should get out of here" that's what he was thinking of. >> and you dedicate that book because tyler is the one who turned you on to education. >> he is. he's the one that turned me on to education and when i confronted my parent -- eventually i do go away, i get an education, i get put on this path of education that takes me to harvard, i go to cambridge, i have this wonderful experience with education but that same path would really take me away from my family because one of the things that happens, i think, as you get an education is you become able to hold on to your own perspective. i came to see that relationship with my brother for what it was and i confronted my parents about it and they, as i said, my mother at first believed me but ultimately when my dad said i was lying, he said i was trying to destroy the family, my
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parents took that track and it was really my brother tyler who stood up for me and believed me and took that seriously. >> so what's the relationship now? do you have any relationship with your parents? >> i have a very limited relationship with my parents. i would say i'm estranged from my parents and my brother sean and my sister, really. >> sean is the abusive brother. >> yes, exactly. >> that's a pseudonym? >> yes, it's a pseudonym. so, yeah, i am estranged from half my family and close with half my family. >> so in the years since you broke out of this environment and went into a completely different environment where all the information was available to you, how on earth did you adjust to suddenly knowing everything and having everything at your disposal? >> well, it was hard, you know? there were moments, like, that time when i asked about the holocaust and people thought i was being anti-semitic and then there were -- i quickly learned not to tell people when i didn't know know things. it was hard. and it was hard because i didn't know who i was for a while. i think there was the fact of
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confronting the reality of my own ignorance, which was hard, and then there was that sense of identity and not knowing who i was and i would go home and see my parents, it was my third year at university when my father -- there was a terrible accident and my father was torching a fuel tank off a car and a spark made it into the fuel tank and the car exploded and he was really badly burned and my family made the decision to treat that at home so they had no iv, they had no morphine and the recovery took months. he almost died and i -- the whole time he was recovering i was at war with myself. i didn't know whether i thought this was what god wanted them to do and they were doing the right thing or whether they were crazy and torturing him for no reason. but i do think with that story, i do think again it just proves there was a real sincerity to the way my parents lived. my father would never have asked anything of us than he asked of himself because the worst injury that happened to any of us
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happened to him. >> have they read the book? >> they have. it's been predictable. the half of my family i am in touch with have been supportive and my parents have not been supportive. >> why did you decide to write the book? >> i didn't feel there were enough stories of complicated family situations. i thought we had stories about family loyalty but i didn't feel like we had stories about what to do when loyalty to your family was somehow in conflict with loyalty to yourself and i thought we had stories about forgiveness but i didn't feel like we had stories about forgiveness that didn't conflate it with reconciliation or make it seem as though reconciliation is the highest form of forgiveness and if i was going to reconcile with my family, i needed them to change and that wasn't within my power. i had no control over whether they changed so i felt like i needed -- i needed ed ed an ide story about forgiveness that didn't have to do with reconciliation and i think people write these stories in their 50s when their parents
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have passed away and by then it's harder to remember why it was so hard to walk away from those relationships and the real love that was there because i think it really is a loss. i do feel like losing my family was a loss and it was a choice i would make again but it really was a loss. >> tara westover, author of "educated," thanks for joining me. >> thank you. >> she's paid a high price for speaking her truth. that's it for our program tonight. thanks for watching amanpour on pbs. see you again next time.
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