tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg February 19, 2017 11:00am-12:01pm EST
>♪ announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." alison: good evening, i'm alison stewart filling in for charlie rose. we begin this evening with politics. the first month of donald trump's presidency continued on a tumultuous path this week. on monday, national security advisor michael flynn was forced to resign after it was revealed he misled administration officials about his contact with the russian ambassador to the united states. yesterday, andrew puzder withdrew his nomination to be labor secretary after republican senators began telling the white house that they would not back the nominee. and earlier today, president trump nominated alexander acosta to fill that post. following the announcement, the
president shot back at claims that his administration was not running smoothly. pres. trump: this administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that i cannot get my cabinet approved and they are outstanding people. , alison: joining me now from washington is ed o'keefe of "the washington post." ed, welcome. ed: great to be with you, allison. alison: it was quite a day. tell me about alexander acosta, the new nominee for labor secretary. ed: well, he would be donald trump's first hispanic nominee to his cabinet, and a notable inclusion for a cabinet that so far did not include many other minorities. he is currently the dean of the law school of florida international university and a former top federal prosecutor in south florida. he has held positions in the justice department before and has been confirmed to positions by the senate, so the white house feels that this one should be much more easy going man the puzder pick, which got caught up in a host of issues regarding
his personal background, his business practices, and his own personal employment practices in his own home, if you will. alison: let's talk about that a little bit. explain to people why support from republicans specifically, started to unravel? ed: yes, as of wednesday, there were at least a dozen republicans telling top leaders they just could not support this guy. look, he has had a checkered past. he is the head of the restaurant firm that owns hardee's and carl's jr., and has been a supporter of president trump, and also a supporter of mitt romney in the past. he has a pretty reputable business record. but, there were concerns about a rancorous divorce he had from his first wife in the late that 1980's led to her appearing on the oprah winfrey show in 1990, in disguise, to discuss allegations of domestic abuse. he has always denied this and she later recanted it. in addition to that, over the
course of the ethics review going on in the last few weeks, he admitted to senators that at one time he had employed a , housekeeper who was an undocumented immigrant. if there is one age-old rule in washington, even in donald trump's washington, it is that the senate does not confirm somebody who once employed an undocumented housekeeper. this goes back to bill clinton's presidency, it has tripped up all sorts of nominees. on that issue, it seems to be more than any other the , republican senators saying, how can we have a labor secretary who could not even follow federal labor laws that required him to pay taxes for his housekeeper and employ , people who are here legally? alison: the press corps really wanted to talk about michael flynn. and really wanted to talk about who knew what, when? did we get any sort of clarity there? ed: well the president made , clear throughout the news conference that for him, the issue was not that michael flynn was having conversations with people in russia.
it was that he lied to the vice president and had done so more than once. me, i doid, look, to not have a problem with him speaking with russian officials, this is what people do during the transition, they talk to people in other countries, those officials in other countries, which is true. there were obama officials doing that during their transition. but they were not discussing sensitive matters like sanctions against that country. and trump mostly batted it away. oddly, he would say, you know, the leaks are true, but the news is fake, essentially to paraphrase him today. on at least one occasion. and that left the reporters scratching their heads. asking, wait a second, in essence you are confirming it, , but you are slapping us at the same time for bothering to report it? and it caused a spirited, if not sometimes testy exchanges. what was marvelous about this, and remarkable was that it was so freewheeling and it went on for about one hour and 15 minutes. it was unexpected, this was not on the official calendar when the day began. it was hastily arranged. mostly to talk about acosta's nomination for labor secretary.
and it evolved into this freewheeling conversation with reporters touching on that. and not only michael flynn, but also the first lady and her status at the white house. and even immigration. and of course, the travel ban , which still faces legal challenges across the country. alison: did he signal of all what will be his next priorities? ed: he did say at the prompting of a reporter that there will be changes regarding the travel ban and those issues next week. he did not get into specifics, but made clear changes are coming. we had anticipated that and he confirmed it. he said this issue for him, at least, is not going away. he was also asked about the program for children of undocumented immigrants in this country, an obama-era program he said he had wanted to undo as quickly as possible. he admitted it is one of the most difficult situations he is dealing with as president and he does not necessarily want to deal with it, because it is about kids and as a father and grandfather he is sensitive to
, their condition. that will cause a lot of consternation for those conservatives that backed him specifically on the immigration issue, believing he would come into office to authorize a quarter wall and end that program. he has authorized the border wall and he is waiting for the money to pay for it. and now he says he is not going after that program. but, frankly, is only thursday. -- it is only tomorrow could be thursday. another story. alison: something that happened that was interesting, something the media has been criticized about, there was fact checking of president trump in real time about his number of electoral college votes. how did that end up? ed: it was nbc's peter alexander, to his credit, who brought up the fact that the president has repeatedly said he had the largest vote count, he keeps saying 306, it is 304. peter alexander pointed out that president bush in 1988 had more. he was in essence, in a line and we were able to see the
president react to the fact that he was being fact checked in the front row. he took it in stride, but it speaks to the fact that this remains a president, now into the second month of his presidency, who remains really, deeply concerned about being taken seriously, and is still, for whatever reason, eager to settle scores from a year ago. he is in charge, he is making change in policies, but he still spends time talking about hillary clinton and whether she was handed information about what would be asked at those debates about her work as secretary of state and the fact he believes, wrongly, that he had won one of the largest electoral vote count in the election. alison: he has a rally this weekend, what is it? ed: a rally being paid for by his reelection campaign.
he is headed to florida to get back in touch with the regular people, the folks who supported him, into a corner of florida where he enjoyed broad support. look he is starting to do things , that presidents normally do. today at a news conference he , blamed the previous administration today. and barack obama did that early on. and he is getting out into the country, talking to regular everyday americans, and explaining his policies to them. to be re-energized by the support of the people that he is interacting with. president obama did that, especially in the second term. donald is going to be doing it as well. we had been told early on that he was probably going to do this and we will see how it goes. but the fact is being paid for by his campaign is interesting because that means it is designed overtly to be a political rally. he is not going to florida to meet with the governor or do something else official.
dancer. her writings about race and america are some of the most influential works of the past century. a new documentary, "maya angelou: and still i rise." chronicles her life and her legacy. here is a look at the trailer. >> every man in the world uses words. a writer must take these known things and put them together in such a way that a reader says, i never thought of it that way before. ♪ >> my mother's boyfriend raped me. i was seven years old. so i stopped speaking for five years. in those five years, i read every book in the black school library. when i decided to speak, i had a lot to say. >> mya was a dancer.
she sang, she was an actress. >> she was a beautiful sculpture. >> she was a writer. maya: when i reach for the pen to write, i have to scrape against those scars. >> she was responsible for teaching me why i should know more about my roots. i remember her being very angry. very angry. >> my mother taught me a lot about justice. the love of doing what is right. >> "i know why the caged bird ngs," it was a very important literary feat. >> it was really almost another bible for me. >> it was the opening for me to want to be a writer. >> it was the first time i read something that resonated. it touched the girlish part of me and reflected my own mother's life. >> when i read it, i could not
free enough she was to talk about this. >> i read those words and talk with somebody knows who i am. >> she had the voice of god. >> out of the hood of history's shame, i rise. >> up from a path rooted in pain, i rise. i am a black ocean leaping and wide. welling and swelling i bring in the tide. bringing the gift that my ancestors gave. i am the hope and the dream of the slave. and so i rise. i rise. i rise. ♪ alison: joining me are the film's directors and the grandson of maya angelou, and the cofounder of the caged bird legacy.
i am pleased to have all of you the table. welcome. >> >> thank you. alison: rita you had an , interesting relationship with maya angelou, you were her radio producer. tell me about the evolution of your role as a radio producer to the person who would document her life? rita: sometimes you feel like as a filmmaker that everything that has happened has prepared you for what will happen. and though i have done both radio and television, when i went into her home to do that program, it meant from 2006-2010 , i spent three to four days a month with her, and i did not know at the time how much information i was gathering how , i was learning her family, learning that president clinton might call. and we might do in interview with bishop desmond tutu and people would come by. so i realized this is a documentary.
the best way to do that is to pull together her work. i had been rereading her work as a result of the job so i knew , that it was time to do it again, to bring it to a new format. so that more people might not be reading, but we needed to reach a wider berth. that is when things started to come together and i met bob as well. alison: how did she feel about the idea of documenting her life? rita: she said three things -- she said, i do not need another thing. she had done seven autobiographical memoirs. she then said, did i know what i was asking? and i really did not. i asked her to go over her life when she had already done it. i think that became cathartic. but he also was saying, do you know how big this story is? do you know what this industry is like? and do you want to do this? it will take you all over the world.
she did not need to say that. it did those things and i am still answering that question. and she said, if you are going to take it, take it all the way. which meant, you better do a good job. and i think that's what we tried to do, yeah. [laughter] alison: that made you laugh, why? colin: classic grandma. [laughter] don't do anything halfway. all right? [laughter] alison: it amazed me that nobody had done a documentary about maya angelou. and do you know why that was, and what made you think, ok, i am someone that could accomplish this? bob: it was amazing. rita and i did not know each other in 2011 when we started and i was musing about her one day. i have a picture of myself with her from a project i did with her years ago, and just thinking about her, i did some research and i was amazed that nobody had ever made a film about maya angelou. it was shocking to me given --
it was shocking to me given the breadth of her story and how important she is in our culture. so, i started to research and reread the books and get prepared. then i was introduced to rita through a mutual friend. and so i think our combined talents came together beautifully to make this film. butas a five-year project, it was a phenomenal five years and an incredible journey. and it was a great privilege to be the ones to tell her story in a television format. alison: i want to ask you a very frank question. i know why i relate to maya angelou. what related to you as a white male? bob: that is a good question. i remember when i read, i remember when i read, "i know why the caged bird sings," and i grew up in michigan, and a white community, middle-class, very far removed from the african-american community. but when i read that book, especially because it is written
in a poetic style, and it is so honest. it is so unbelievably honest that it really caught me and it , made me in a way reevaluate my place as a white male, privileged person, etc. it was one of those books that really hit me really hard in a good way. alison: i want to pick up on something you said about maya angelou having to relive her life and in the parts that were , incredibly painful. and many of them joyous. what was that like to watch her go through that process and what was it like for her going through the process of narrating her own life? rita: i think it was cathartic for her. when she decided to do it with everything, she would not do anything halfway. as colin mentioned. she would bring her total self to it, so when you see the film, you will see moments when she is overcome with emotion. she relives it. and moments when she is hilarious.
she is not even trying to be. she is just thinking back on that particular instance. sometimes it was painful to watch her go back there. it was also painful because she was a patient of copd, and it wasn't widely known and we could , only do about one hour of interviews and then she had to rest. she needed oxygen. so for her to want to do it that much -- but once she committed to it, she was 100% there. and i like to say that when you for aing a subject subject matter, you are responsible, and you have to be sensitive that you are working with a human being, and you are working with their spirit and their soul, and she is in her you are working with her life 80's. and you have to be respectful of that and let the story carry you and let her have the time and space to tell it and that is what we tried to do. alison: as her grandson while
, watching your grandmother and hearing all of the details, some of the gritty, difficult details, what was that like for you, just knowing her as grandma? colin: i think that my grandma has been open with me, and as she has been with all of the people in her life, she is an open book. so many of the hardest things she was talking about, i knew about. we had had conversations about. i think for me, i was thinking about thinking about this story in one sitting, you sit around the table for 30-40 years and you hear these stories, one here and you are skipping years and going back and forth. but to see it told start to finish, that gave me the full understanding of the magnitude of who she was. what she traversed.
-- what she traversed to get to who she became. that it wasn't one day that she woke up that she decided to be this powerful woman, it was a test of success and failure and heartbreak and joyfulness that brought her to that point and the point of clarity, one of her biggest things is clarity of life and human beings. alison: that is interesting because if you look at it from beginning to end i wonder as you , listen to these interviews, was there something about her that never changed? colin: she was steadfast in being courageous. i think that is the thing -- the through-line of her life with all the disappointment and joy in whatever happened to her, she was enormously courageous. bob: she always said, courage is the thing he valued the most because you cannot go on without having courage. that to me is what i witnessed in following her life story, she
had the courage to suddenly go to africa on fairly short notice, to just experience that world. and to engage in the civil rights movement. to become friends with both martin luther king and malcom x. because there was a divide there. i just admire her courage and her ability to overcome obstacles constantly. it was amazing to me. alison: what were maybe 2-3 decisions she made that really set the course of her life? rita: well, as bob said, and we have alluded to, there is a through line and when we found that line, we began the documentary with this quote -- "you may incur defeats, but you must not be defeated." that was true for her and i think it is true universally for all of us.
i think that the fact that she lost her voice, and decided in and of herself a couple of things -- she was raped, but she stopped speaking because she had enough inside of her to say as horrible as that was, she did not want anybody to die. that is a very high level, intellectual process for a seven-year-old girl. alison: because her rapist was killed. rita: yes. and she did not want anybody else to die. that is very humanitarian. the other thing is is that the people in her life who loved her, at the point they loved her, helped her to grow, and she was able to accept the love of her fraternal grandmother, even though her mother had rejected her, her mother and father rejected her at that time. and here you have a woman, grandma henderson, that runs a store, and is an entrepreneur that has land for white people.
who did you have to be in the jim crow south? this was somebody she saw by as osmosis every day. and the teacher that allowed her to learn poetry again and to eventually speak. and who does not at some point in their life have a good teacher? and then the love of her brother, bailey. it a cheerleader, a man beside her was not after anything, but her goodwill and the best for her. i think those things helped to build her and focus her as a person. later, she did have a better relationship with her mother and a struggle with rejection. but by then she was supported , organically by a community that we hope will exist for all of us, that we need very much. people who would teach her, her uncle that would teach her. all the components were there for education, faith, for love, genuine brotherly love.
i think those things supported her because she saw them early , and she had a sensitivity to a handicapped person the racism. , i will say that she crossed the color lines later in the jim crow south to marry a white man, two in fact, which meant that she understood reconciliation and forgiveness. alison: we talked about the spiritual side, but what about her sassy youth? [laughter] i do not think a lot of people know that she was such a performer. there are great clips in the film and let's take a look at one of them. [begin video clip] >> i stopped dancing and started singing. >> maya angelou. [applause] >> i talked friends of mine into going to this little club in the late 1950's. what i remember is maya angelou aya what i remember is m
making her entrance very tall, , very grand. no shoes. ♪ [singing] >> she was an original, that is an understatement. ♪ >> she was refined with her movements. she was limbs, she was a beautiful sculpture. ♪ [singing] alison: what a performer. and she was a performer all through her life. i understood her better seeing that footage. what did you think when you first encounter that? rita: what i thought was, here she was a young woman at that time period. how many women were doing what she was doing? and she already had a young son.
and so, she was bringing all of that to herself. i talked to her about it once and they had put down that she was from cuba and she was exotic on the album. she wasn't but they needed that , to sell it. and the things she had to go through during that time, i just thought it was extraordinary. it took a lot of courage then. and she would tell you, "i really wasn't a singer." but she sang. she was really not a cook, but she cooked. she did what she had to do in order to survive through those times. and as she kept doing things, she became stronger and more courageous and more knowledgeable about our culture. in very many facets of it. bob: people do not understand, and those years, she was struggling to make a living. , guyad a very young son johnson, and she was really struggling. and she was dancing, later she ended up singing because she would get more money to sing.
so she made decisions like that because she had to. it is hard to imagine that this towering icon that we think of in maya angelou was actually in the 1950's and 1960's, struggling to raise a son without a husband. it was not an easy life. it looks like a lot of fun, but it is a lot of work. colin: singing also, i believe, this is what makes her attainable. if you really look at her speaking engagements, there is a melody to it, a harmony, there is tension and relief. she knows how to deliver a message. and she always starts with singing and it starts the tone and the rest of it flows. i think she utilized that later on. she was a cook before, and later on in life she was a chef. she used all those moments and training to bring her forward. doing everything 100%, she
brought everything to the table every moment. bob: she would start every interview with sydney first to get her warmed up -- every interview with sin jin first to get her warmed up. it is amazing to watch. rita: i think the love of music continued because she would interview for the radio program and she loved country music. we did not get it in the film, but martina mcbride, she had opened for her. she is in brooks and dunn videos and somebody sent her a guitar, a $10,000 guitar and she started taking guitar lessons. montgomery gentry sent it. this was when i knew her in 2006. so she kept ever growing, but she loved the music, she loved the lyricism of life actually. and i think that is one of her quotes, too, everything dances. and she had a melody to her. alison: watching her life, i was struck by her adaptability while
maintaining who she was. toward the end of the film, you and if you some people who who talk about when she first encountered hip-hop music. she sort of understood what it was, but she was not so sure about the way that language was used. why was she able to adapt and maintain herself? what do you think? colin: my grandma was a lover of the arts and she supported art in any form. she said that which is human cannot be foreign to me. right? so if you created it, i do not care what country or instrument, if it is music and it is coming from your heart i can resonate with it. i do not think she separated walls between her and different types of music. i think she believed in reaching out to young people and understanding if she did not embrace hip-hop, that was a segment of people that she was not going to be attainable to her. that is why she made friends with common enough stories about
tupac and saw mike tyson in jail because he asked her to come see him. she went to the president spoke to him. she did not separate herself and -- she went to the prison and spoke to him. she did not separate herself and i think that she felt like her pathway for was youth. if you do not get them on board, where will you go? rita: she said to me that people in her age group should be ashamed to die, that they did not do enough for the younger people. and when we did the weekly radio over the course -- radio show over the course of four years there was a point when i told , her that i thought she should speak with the rappers. and she was like, i don't know about that. i said, but they are the poets of today, that is what is happening. and we did a show with kanye west, common, and a christian rapper named jay. quest. and she read the words of their work and even though some of them, she said, it cannot carry the necessary comportment, she
did go through that and she would say, maybe they will stop using some of those words in their time. but she said, i will not let that separate me from them. and i think that she wanted that, that artistry of generations. it was something she grew up with being raised by a much older woman and then having her brother. it was just the cities and towns of arkansas and living in hawaii, and living in egypt, and living in london, and living in ghana, and living in new york and st. louis. it was not something that many people did, so you can actually track history through her life, american and international history, in a much more colorful way than being given facts. and let's be honest, history has not been told from a black woman's point of view.
so that is one of the things this documentary does, it gives you a little bit more than an oral history because of the research. you will see over 314 photographs that were pulled from 4000, video pulled from over 150 hours. and so, that was her life. she was so well documented, and self documented with seven autobiographical memoirs, 36 books before she died. alison: what did you learn about your grandmother after watching the film and going through the process of talking about her and thinking about her life? colin: i do not know that i particularly learned one fact about her life. i mean i am her only grandson. ,so i spoke to her for 41 years. , [laughter] colin: she wanted me to understand her story. understand the thing she went
through. not to pump herself up, but because it was family and this is history. and she's my angelo. she is history -- and she is my angelo. what i really have learned is it is more about how other people received here. we have gone to multiple screenings and one of the things we saw is a woman said she saw the documentary and felt healed. i think that her story is such a powerful story, that people maybe you have read only one book, or maybe sell the clinton in operation, they do not see inauguration's they do not see the birth of it. , and this woman's wind was taken away. when you see the full story, that is the full impact of energy is coming to life and that is something i am proud of and having rita and bob being part of this, this would not have happened in any other way if they had not come together and formed a relationship with my grandma. i am just standing her proud to
be her grandson and carrying her legacy a little further down the road. alison: so you see her as grandma, not maya angelou? [laughter] eat your vegetables? colin: no. always eat the food that has been given to you when you are at symbiosis table. -- when you are at somebody else's table. [laughter] for me, the biggest thing that she gave me was the statement that she said, she was then hand at the small of my back, she would never let me fall. and that means she has watched out for me before and continues now and i have multiple pieces of evidence of her continuing in my life. alison: thank you so much. colin and the directors of "maya angelou: and still i rise." thank you so much. it it premieres tuesday, february 21 at 8 p.m. eastern on pbs.
island of lampedusa, which has played a critical role in the european migrant crisis. it is closer to -- than italy. half a million people have landed there and nearly 30,000 have died. a.l. scott of "the new york times" writes, "mr. rosi does not spare his viewers glimpses of pain." the film is impressionistic and intensely absorbing. here is the trailer for "fire at sea." ♪ [sound of waves crashing] [engine revving] [helicopter whirring] [speaking in foreign language] >> your position? please, your position? >> help us please.
language] [singing] ♪ >> your position? my friend, hello? [end video clip] john: i am very pleased to have gianfranco rosi at this table for the first time. perhaps you can begin by describing a bit lampedusa, what is it like, this island closer to tunisia than italy? gianfranco: yes. closer to tunisia then italy. and most of the time out of any maps, so you know, it is a little tiny spot in the middle of the sea, which is mostly
known, and more now becoming somehow the reference for the humanitarian crisis. john: has it always been welcoming to refugees? gianfranco: lampedusa has been, for the last 50 years, it has been the getaway of europe, on the border of europe and is a beacon of freedom, which for the last 50 years, or more than 500,000 people have landed on lampedusa. and unfortunately, when the 27,000 people died. they told me just recently 7000 people died. so the mediterranean sea is like a cemetary. and these are people that we know died. john: do you think that there is something special about the island? at one point, one of the characters says, the fishermen collect things from the sea. gianfranco: when i was there, the first time i went in there, i did not know much about the island. and i was studying, if i was able to make this film, there
was a person that kind of took me into the movie and said, you need to tell the story to the world, this tragedy. and when asking what happened, all these years, lampedusa was always embracing people. and he told me something profound, he said the fishermen always welcome anything that comes from the sea. so maybe we should learn to have the soul of a fisherman. the soul of a fisherman in ourselves. john: it is amazing film, partly because of the mixture between heaven and hell. you have this obvious hell, which you show on the boats, including the dead sometimes. but you also have heaven, which seems heavenly by comparison, this island. you choose deliberately characters who are not well-off, that are poor, the main character is this boy. i am just going to ask you about. and he is not having a particularly happy life, but his life seems idyllic in some ways compared to the people out on the ocean. gianfranco: of the characters, first they were encounters for
me. i went to lampedusa and at first i did not know anything about the island, i did not know the people. and i remember for me it was very important to meet the people that somehow became, i started this journey with. i spent one and a half years in lampedusa. and each of them, when i met them, somehow had an incredible link with the past. with the world. almost like an archetype. and when i met the boy. i knew from the beginning, i wanted to have the point of view of a kid in the story, because it would allow the certain freedoms to talk about migrants. but then i realized that also his story, his daily life would take me always beyond lampedusa, you know? everything he does, in this small life, his daily small events on life, he brings it to, my thought to the crisis. and somehow he film is a coming-of-age film. it is the harshness of a boy to grow up and deal with life.
through his inner words we , discover our difficulties to deal with something we do not know, which is somehow in that case the crisis, the migrants asking for help outside of lampedusa. so anything he does is always like so special and somehow reminding us of something that is there arriving to the island. john: did you choose him at all, because he is not an idyllic kid, he wanders around with a slingshot -- a little bit of a romper, to put it mildly. gianfranco: he is like the woody allen of lampedusa. he is in his own little daily fight, his anxiety, his lazy eye, there is always an element of you poking something else. -- element of evoking something else. when i met him, i remember he was playing with his slingshot and i was looking at him and
asking, how good are you? and he said, very good. he put like a little broom and he aimed at the broom and hit it and he turned to me and said, you need passion in life. [laughter] and i knew it that moment. -- i'm new at that moment he was going to be the protagonist of my film. john you do not do question and : answer, you always do a fly on the wall view, you show things and do not interrupt. gianfranco: one of my mentors told me, he said, you ask one question and you have one answer, you have 10 questions you have 10 answers, you must go deeper into things. so for me it is important to let life unfold in front of the camera. [speaking foreign language]
this navy vessel and that day they literally had a body arriving and i asked, should i film this or not? and i realized it was a tragedy for the world to see. it is inconceivable and unacceptable so many people die trying to cross the sea and escaping from tragedy, from war, from hunger. and i met once this man and he told me, ask him, what made you do this, when you know you might die? he told me, the word might, it is hope. in libya, we will die. but if we cross the sea, he might survive. so lampedusa for these people it is a hope, it is a light, it is a beacon of freedom. we do portray -- we do betray more often, the
hope for these people, they are brought into italy and the mainland. john: did you want to intervene at all? when you were in the migration center in places like that, and if you want to? gianfranco: i felt a very strong the harshness and the difficulties of filmmaking when i was there. most of the time i was talking to the people to understand the fear of those things and also on the boat. when there was a dramatic scene, i was very rarely able to put the camera in between me and them without feeling the obstacle that the camera was creating. but somehow, i was able to grab the moment which was important to let people know that beyond the numbers there is a moment, there is somebody looking at you and asking for help.
john: i'm intrigued. in america a place where , immigrants come, the immigrants seen as a good thing, but there is not much sympathy in america in terms of for immigrants. yet, there is not much sympathy in america in terms of immigrants. you went and protested at the airport. gianfranco: i arrived at the airport and people could not arrive anymore. john: these are the same people -- gianfranco: the same people that were in lampedusa. coming out of the tragedy of syria, of things, of the war that is there. and then sadly, it was terrible to come to the states and see fear in the face of the people. this is something that i never -- john: fear in terms of trying to stop people coming through? gianfranco: they were not able to arrive in the places they were living. i have many iranian friends in
los angeles. but lawyers, people in tears. to witness this, they gave me a sense of shock and what was happening. i asked, what happened when america turns its back to history? what happens when america stops? john: why call it "fire at sea." explain that? gianfranco: it is the name of a song. it is related to a tragedy during the second world war when a plane was firebombed. there was a fire outside where many people died, it was a tragedy. and what is fascinating is when you hear the song, you hear it everywhere. it is almost the name of the island. you hear the song, it is always grabbing your attention. and then after i asked, what is the name of this?
it is "fire at sea." they told me the story. the song is, the likeness of it was important because on my way, on lampedusa, you can laugh. john: yes there are moments of lightness. but the theme is linked to a tragedy. john: you said he did not like taking pictures with a blue sky, you would rather have a stormy sky. gianfranco: it is difficult. for me, every day becomes trying to find the right image and bringing the camera, most of the experience without the camera, i spent three months before we started shooting in lampedusa. because i have to know the people, i have to encounter the people. that is what is important about my work, creating trust. and when i bring the camera, it brings something else, the
transformation. i always, the unknown, i put a camera and something happens that i did not expect. and it becomes an incredible relationship, the camera transforms things. so for me, waiting for the clouds, maybe postponing the day i have to shoot. today, the sky is blue. i will wait for tomorrow. it is like postponing the day of the shooting because as i said, it is very painful for me when i put the camera there and change things. it is not about gaining things in a film. john: do you hope that this film will change things for the refugees? gianfranco: i have been asked this so many times and people ask, what do you think this film will bring? i am very aware that no art or film can change the course of
history, but it will be be distributed inbe 64 countries and i see the strong affect. and many times people come up to me and said, what can i do? if people come out of the cinema and ask, what can i do, that is an incredible achievement. there is a moment in this film where there is a song that is a cry of help from the people that are sinking in the middle of the sea and during the night screaming help, help, help. and the guy from the coast guard says, what is your position? what is your position? for me, that is an important thing. i want to reverse things, people asking what is my position and what can i do? i think i reached two people asking all the time these questions -- and witnessing the tragedy from the past years. john: your film is a very
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