tv Amanpour on PBS PBS March 22, 2018 12:00am-12:30am PDT
welcome to "amanpour" on pbs. tonight, one of hollywood's biggest stars of a race against time to protect myanmar's desperate rohingya. back from the refugee camps facing monsoon flooding, cate blanchett also tells me that she cannot understand the once venerated aung san suu kyi's neglect of these people. plus, in the united states, a white southerner confronts history. the mayor of new orleans, mitch landrieu on his new book about the decision to remove four confederate monuments from his city. ♪
"amanpour" on pbs was made possible by the generous support of rosalind p. walter. good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. i'm christiane amanpour in london. violent prosecution forced them to flee their homes and their country. since myanmar's military crackdown on rohingya muslims almost 700,000 have fled across the border to squalid camps in neighboring bangladesh. the united states and the u.n. have accused them of ethnic cleansing. the country's icon of democracy and human rights, aung san suu kyi is herself vilified by her most ardent supporters around the world for failing to stand up for the rights of these people. now the region's infamous monsoon season is bearing down, threatening to wash away the flimsy refugee shelters. into this emergency, this crisis steps the oscar winning actress
cate blanchett. she's a special goodwill ambassador for the u.n. refugee agency, and she's giving us her first eyewitness accounts of the horrors that she's just witnessed there. cate blanchett, welcome to the program. >> thank you. >> you've just come back from this real center of humanitarian crisis. what was the most urgent need? >> the vastness of the crisis, but i don't think anything could have really prepared me for just the precarious nature of the environment in which these refugees are living. obviously they've fled. >> you're there with some of them in the camp. >> yes. as that image suggests, the thing that most struck me is i've never seen so many unaccompanied children because over half the people in the surrounding settlements are children under the ages of 18. >> what does that do to you? you're a mother of four children. >> yes. i met so many women who were heads of household, so many
children who didn't know where their parents were. it is deeply, deeply upsetting. i mean, their lives are not only precarious because of what they've experienced in the oncoming monsoons but also they're ripe for exploitation because they don't have that sort of family support in a very patriarchal society. >> you did manage to talk and see quite a few people. also, you talk about the monsoons and everybody's concerned because forget a refugee crisis, bangladesh is prone for the worst kinds of flooding and monsoons. >> not only one of the wettest countries on earth, it's one of the poorest. the government has kept the borders open which is profoundly generous. and i saw incredible generosity of the host communities that are living cheek by jowl with, you know, upwards of a million people in cox's bazaar. it's unsustainable without support from the international community. >> you talked about them keeping the borders open. myanmar, the military, in the
last few days has done exactly the opposite. fortifying the borders, barbed wire, berms, trenches, to try to stop these rohingya from going back, many to their own homes. do you get a sense of wanting to go back, feeling they could ever go back? >> well, i don't think i've ever experienced in my time with unhcr, a level of terror about returning home. obviously the rohingya have been generationally stateless and since the citizenship law changes in 1992, their situation within myanmar has become increasingly perilous. so they've been able to be sustainably educated or have access to medical services, their movement has been curtailed. but what has happened is with villages burning and the mothers and the girls that i spoke to who have themselves experienced rape, there was one girl in a community center i met, jasmine, who had just very matter of factually said that she saw her 3-year-old brother being thrown
into a fire and her elder brother being dismembered and shot in front of her. as a mother, i wouldn't want to return back to that. so, of course, the solution does rely -- it takes place in myanmar, but the u.n. needs to be able to get unrestricted access to make sure that those repatriations of the rohingya people can happen in a humane and dignified way. >> you went to visit a school. we'll play a little bit of video. there is still a little humanity and hope left in them. let's have a look. ♪ >> oh, look at that. that is beautiful. >> so you talked a little bit about the kids and the terror
that they face on many occasions, but sometimes they're just happy. happy to see an outsider who brings them a little distraction, a little love. >> yes. i think through unhcr and the partner organizations, those children that you just saw have been given access to learning to read and write for the first time ever because, as stateless rohingya refugees, they've not had access to education at all. it was very distressing to hear them sing that old protest song. they sang twinkle, twinkle little star to a tune that i had never heard before. then they began to sing, i am not alone. deep in my heart, i know that i am not alone. i am not afraid. you want to think, i want to make that true with the support of the international community. >> what do you think they need most right now? >> they need incredible support to shore themselves up against the oncoming monsoons. i mean, they've shown incredible resilience. they themselves are sandbagging because the dwellings are in
places where no dwellings should be. they're landslides waiting to happen. and the latrines are going to collapse and there's going to be dysentery and cholera. they need financial support. the bangladesh government and the host communities need to be supported by the international community to shore up against the monsoons. >> it does really sound awful. how awful is what's become of aung san suu kyi? i don't know whether as a woman you identify or as a human rights ambassador you identify. but this woman, you know, inspired the whole world. she was given human rights prizes. and now one by one they're being taken away from her. the holocaust museum in washington is the latest. >> yes. >> nobel laureates have called on her just to stand up and speak up for these people. >> it is bewildering, isn't it, that someone who has been such a champion for establishing even a fragile democracy in myanmar and who herself has suffered privations have not acknowledging the atrocities
that have taken place. they're very real. there's not a single refugee that i met who hadn't experienced some profound level of trauma. but i suppose that for me that is a political solution that needs to take place and i'm focused on the very real human need that these 670,000 -- >> she was in your country, australia. >> yes, recently. >> while you were in bangladesh. >> mm-hmm. >> and she was treated as a visiting dignitary, as she should be, but she pulled out of a q&a and a speech and all that kind of stuff. and again, you know, i would, as an australian, with your own country's record on refugees and immigrants and those being shunted into detention centers and off shore and all the rest of it. it's a very difficult thing for you as a npolitical, actress, to be in the middle of this.
>> respecting of basic human rights for the world's most vulnerable should not be a political decision. turning back boats has not worked. the policy of offshore mandatory ongoing detention is inhumane and must be stopped. the australia i grew up in was one that was, colonial invasion notwithstanding, was supportive of refugees and those refugees have played an enormous positive benefit to us economically and culturally and socially. so i don't understand at all. but australia has been incredibly generous in its financial support of, you know, say the rohingya crisis and other crises. but it really does have to deal with the offshore processing. >> there's this anti-sort of migrant feeling right now. and it comes up at the same time as there's this big metoo movement, time's up. there's a lot of movements that are happening right now.
you're one of the prominent people who signed up two times up and fund-raise. what is the fund-raising for? >> i exist in a very high profile industry, very pointy-ended industry and i think that there's many women in my position who feel that we have a platform to not only examine the dirty laundry that needs to be washed in our own industry but be an exemplar for the way other industries need to do, you know, need to examine the inequalities and the unexamined abuses that have gone on for decades. >> are you quite proud that it was hollywood that actually opened the floodgates to this injustice that's happening to women? >> i think, as artists, we deal in nuance, we deal in gray areas and we deal in doubt. and so i think that we're -- and also the job is, without being too highfalutin, one's job is to be empathetic.
as a woman in quite a male dominated industry, that we sort of tend to be compassionate and we welcome conversation and we've been perhaps a little bit too patient. what i'm very proud of is that in my industry i think women have been siloed from one another, seen as being competitors rather than collaborators. and i really do feel that there's a profound level of change that's happening in my industry. but you know, look at the banking sector, look at farm workers, look at women in the automotive industry. it happens across industry. >> and in ours. >> yes, exactly. and if our own industry can be used as an exemplar and the positive changes that i think are really genuinely happening can be rolled out into other industries, that is something i'm proud of. >> you're about to lead the jury at the cannes film festival which will pronounce on the latest, best films. and obviously i have to ask you this question because you won an oscar for "blue jasmine" that woody allen made.
and everybody wants to ask you and probably has asked you how do you twin -- how do you juxtapose being a me too proponent and staying silent and working with woody allen? would you work with him again? >> i don't think i've stayed silent at all. at the time that i worked with woody allen, i knew nothing of the allegations, and it came out during the -- at the time that the film was released. and at the time i said it's a very painful and complicated situation for the family which i hope they have the ability to resolve. and if these allegations need to be re-examined which in my understanding they've been through court and i'm a big believer in the justice system and setting legal precedent for these -- if the case needs to be reopened, i'm absolutely wholeheartedly in support of that. because i think that there's one thing about social media is fantastic about raising awareness about issues, but it's not the judge and jury. and so i feel that if these
things need to go into court so that if these abuses have happened that the person is prosecuted. and so someone, you know, who is not in the shiny industry that i am can use that legal precedent to protect themselves. because always people -- you know, my industry and the other industry, they're preyed on because they're vulnerable. and i just come from seeing some of the world's most vulnerable women. so -- >> and i want to finish with another piece of video that you have brought back. again, you know, it's an attempt to find the joy in these incredibly sad and dispossessed places. and we're going to show you with some refugees who are actually turning any number of household objects into musical instruments. >> mohammed, he's a professional singer back in myanmar. he sang for a group of us, a song about the oncoming monsoon and the terrifying fear that all of their houses are going to collapse. >> let's just play it. ♪
>> he's using what looks like a kitchen bowl as a musical instrument. >> yes. the man who is the master of the mandolin, i wasn't exactly sure what the instrument was called. we had to wait for a half hour. he said i'm waiting for one more instrument. then out came this metal pot. so i think that in itself speaks of a level of invention and ingenuity that the refugees continually show. >> cate blanchett, thank you so much for shining the spotlight on them. >> thank you. now, our next guest knows what it's like to try to turn a dark past into a brighter future. mitch landrieu is the mayor of new orleans. he's a democrat, and he's the first white person to hold that office since his father in the late 1970s. last year he took a controversial step towards reconciliation by ordering the removal of four statues honoring confederate history in the city.
and mayor landrieu gave a powerful speech about why he thought they should come down. >> another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an african-american mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter why robert e. lee sat atop of our city. can you do it? can you do it? can you look into the eyes of this young girl and convince her that robert e. lee is there to encourage her? do you think that she feels inspired and hopeful by that story? do these monuments help her see her future with limitless potential? have you ever thought? have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and my potential, my limitless potential as well? >> powerful stuff. now mayor landrieu's book about his journey to this decision is being published this week. "in the shadow of statues, a white southerner confronts history."
the mayor joins me live from new york. welcome to the program. >> thank you so much. that piece that you just did was so powerful and it brought back so many memories for me. >> it's quite amazing to see you standing there. remind us of the context in which you made that speech. because there was an enormous national crisis around that. >> well, the context was that, as you know, katrina destroyed the city of new orleans, and the people of new orleans were strewn across the united states of america and so many people were so kind to take us in. and we had to rebuild new orleans. as we were rebuilding new orleans and preparing for our 300th anniversary, we had to do some real soul searching about what the city was, what it really meant, what our history meant and how we prepared for the future. those confederate monuments stood there. as we prepared for the 300th anniversary, my friend marsalis, who i grew up confronted me and said, i'll help you but have you considered taking those statues
down. they're not a reflection of what the city of new orleans is. and have you thought about what those monuments say to me as an african-american man. did you know that louis armstrong left the city because of that and didn't come back? >> it really sends chills that you're talking about louis armstrong, the greatest jazz player, practically everyone in the united states who came from your region and wynton marsalis is the current great jazz player. he had a big influence on you. >> what he was saying to me lovily is do you understand how damaged we are because 5 million african-americans left the south and brought their intellect and talent to the rest of the country and didn't stay in the south. the speech talked about that young girl to say, when she is limited in her potential, don't you understand that it limits our potential well. it really is a cry that our diversity is our strength, it's not a weakness. when we come together and don't separate because of race, creed, color, of religion, national
origin, that's who we are as americans. new orleans should reflect that ethos about what's the best of america and not the worst. >> describe, though, because you're the mayor, you took this decision and there was a lot of controversy and criticism and people thought that -- some people anyway thought that was a step too far and why should you do that and it was all wrapped up in their view of history as well. tell me about how difficult it was even though you had potentially law on your side, how difficult it was to actually physically to get them taken down? >> that's a great question. because as you know we asked the city to talk about it. they challenged us in court. we won the court decision. seven court decisions with 13 judges. but even after all of that, even after it became the law of the land, the mayor of the city of new orleans who had cranes all over the place, rebuilding airports, riverfronts, couldn't
find anybody to give me a crane to take the monuments down. it occurred to me that this is what institutional racism is. if you don't control the money, mechanisms and the machines then you're in trouble. we eventually found somebody to give us a crane. but the first person who was supposed to do it had his car firebombed. my mind went right back to the bombings in birmingham so many years ago. my goodness, we've come a far way, but how much further do we have to go? it was really important to give the speech so we could lay out why we did what we did and what we should aspire to as a nation. >> let's talk about it from our own family's perspective. you talk about systemic racism, institutionalized racism and how history has failed because certain -- you know, the south grew up learning a version of history of the civil war and slavery and all of that which wasn't the right history, the correct, the truth of the matter. tell us about that. >> well, i'll say this in a very personal way. my mom, when she read the book,
said to me very painfully, i didn't know that was our real history. they didn't teach me that in school. and, of course, the history that was taught was that the confederacy was a noble cause, that it was for economic reasons, not that it was fought against humanity, not that it was against what the ideals of the united states were, not that it was fought to tear the country apart for the cause of slavery, which i speak very, you know, painfully about. slavery separated families, people were killed, people were hung, women were raped, people were tortured. we have to hear that because the united states of america, in my opinion, has not really dealt with it in that way. germany with the holocaust in a much better way. there were attempts in south africa to do that. but you know this better than i do. you know some of the greatest atrocities in the history of the world have occurred over race or class or religion. and in some instances geography. slavery it should not be hard for us to say was one of our nation's great original sins that has affected us through today.
to have statues up that were put up as political messages to tell african-americans that they were not welcome here is not something that's consistent with the history of new orleans or who we have ever been, which is in my opinion, a great multicultural mecca that has given us wonderful things in the country. >> there are still people in the united states that disagree with bringing down those statues. what is it about even the current education? you talk about the education in your mother's day. >> correct. well, i write about this in the book and i really want grandparents to talk to their kids about this. it is not a judgment. it's an invitation for people to reconsid the history that they knew and to think about it from the perspective of african-americans. now in the city of new orleans which is now 60% african-american to have a 12-year-old girl walk by a statue that's on a piece of land that she owns as a taxpayer that actually is revering as opposed to just remembering an individual who thought she should still be a slave seems to
me to be just not necessary. and the city of new orleans, as she prepares herself for the next 300 years should have public displays that reflect what our real history and our soul is. and, of course, the story that you did before demonstrates that hatred, you know, based on religion and other things. continues to course across the world. the united states is supposed to be a beacon of freedom. we're not supposed to reach into our past and tell people to just deal with it and we can't rethink where we were especially if we made a mistake. >> sorry. i just want to ask you about current demonization, if you like. you famously are the president of the u.s. conference on mayors and you actually on behalf of the other mayors declined an invitation this year to go to the white house. and you basically said that, unfortunately, the trump administration's decision to threaten mayors and demonize immigrants yet again and use cities as political props in the process has made this meeting untenable.
>> there has been tremendous rhetoric in the past year about judging people based on race or creed or color or national origin, saying that immigrants are criminals. that all muslims are terrorists. that black people are criminals. that is not the ethos of the united states of america. we judge people, as you know, not based on who you were born to, not what you look like but basically on your merit. that's what you're supposed to be doing. when that occurs we have to call that out. finally when there are false equivocations of people on two sides of the issue, one who is working hard to support the constitution and another that are white supremacists, that's a line that should never be crossed in the united states of america. when it is, it needs to be confronted and called out and dealt with. >> mayor, you're a democrat. your term expires in a few months. and as the democrats look around to see who might be their standardbearer for the next presidential election in 2020, your name often comes up. and i was wondering whether you had national plans and what you
make of the current environment where, in fact, in some of these elections, we've seen in pennsylvania and alabama democrats won against the odds. >> well, i'll make a couple of points. i make a comment in the book when david duke actually got elected to the legislature, there's nothing happening on the national level that has not happened in the city of new orleans and in louisiana. we've seen this before. we've heard the dog whistles. and the way that you have to deal with it is to confront hatred and bigotry straight on or it will get out of the way and take you over. that's not who we are. secondly, people get tired of chaos. they get tired of insecurity. they get tired of feeling like the country's not moving in the right direction. so i think that's why you see especially in the midterm elections, the country moving in a different direction. as it relates to me, i have 48 days left in office. i'm trying to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the city of new orleans. i really don't have plans going forward. i hear the noise. of course, everybody is talking about everybody because people are desperate to have a new leader in the united states of
america so that america can really find her strength and her beauty again. but i don't have any intentions of doing that at the time. >> at the time is the caveat. but let me ask you about the memorialization of what you're talking about. in alabama, the national memorial for peace and reconciliation will open up and it's to remember the victims of lynching, but it will feature hanging piengrllars ed with the names of 4,000 victims. it's really stark, really a puh the gut. what do you think of that? and do you think its message will be listened to by the people who need to listen to it? >> i'm so thankful for that. brian stevenson has been leading this effort and i'm so proud of him and his heroism. one of the things that i thought was tough language in the book was to call out all the people who professed to be the protectors of history to say we shouldn't take down the monuments. i said if that's what you think
you are guilty of historic malfeasance because you never told the other side of the story. there's no monuments to slave ships, no place to commemorate where all the lynchings took place in the south, there's no place where we show people where slaves were sold. and i said, if you are going to tell the history of who we are, have faith in the people to reflect on what the totality of it is and brian is starting to move the nation in that category. i look forward to seeing it and thankful to him and his work and all the people that supported that effort. >> it's an amazing reckoning. mayor mitch landrieu, thank you. that's it for our program tonight. thank you for watching "amanpour" on pbs. and join us again tomorrow night. "amanpour" on pbs was made possible by the generous support of rosalind p. walter.
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