tv Tavis Smiley PBS May 1, 2013 12:00am-12:31am PDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley.tonight a conversation from acclaimed director mira nair. tackles issues of identity and nationalism and a post nine-11 world. we are glad you have joined us. a conversation with director mira nair coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to
fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> mira nair is one of the few women of color to break through the ranks of director of motion pictures. she was nominated for an oscar and went on to direct denzel washington in " mississippi ma sala>'." her f
we will take a look at a clip from "the reluctant fundamentalist." >> violence has wormed its way into my life. >> you go down and do the job you were hired to do. so many people feel hunted. >> i do not recognize my own voice anymore. you are playing a dangerous game. >> you're going to get us both killed. yes, i am pakistani, yes, i am muslim but that is not all that i am. i want to start with --
mira very kindly and gently corrected me with introduced -- with regards to my introduction. i said you were indian-born. youend to be insular and feel in the blank but what did you say to me when i said indian-born? >> i am not someone who really came to be an immigrant here. do nott regarded -- i think of myself as one. i am equally at home and america as i am in india. i am in indiana -- an indian as opposed to being indian-born. of howgive me a sense these distinctions, how these views, how these prisms matter when you are a resident of the world. >> i am a resident of three
worlds. of america, india, and north africa and i live in new and a -- i live in uganda most of the year. i have that worldview that is expansive rather than looking at the world from where you said. and i think that the world is increasingly becoming like that. people are settling and unsettling other places that they have her decades and generations. sometimes in the media my in the world as we see it, there are no understanding of the other side. that is one of the big reasons i "thethis new film, ,.."ctant fundamentalist" i am tired of the reductive is am with which we see the world. either you or this or that. if you are a pakistani or terrorist -- you are a
terrorist. this kind of resumes we see ourselves -- each other through are still defying and they do not show the complexity and the incredible warmth and encompassing of the world what thiscomes to movie deals with. often we have seen so much in -- last decade of wars from we are engaged in in afghanistan and iraq and all kinds of places. both of these movies pretty much i would say a monologue. it is from one point of view. ira murder -- i remember the dazzlement with which i saw " the killing fields." there was a genuinely cambodian character at the heart of it. there is a young man who is aims ofore, who
america, who gets princeton and achieves the american dream and falls in love and has it all. 9/11 happens and suddenly this young man is looked at askance like he could be perhaps a terrorist or whatever. and how does this man then find his voice? that is a story of my film. it is a coming-of-age story but it is a story that in a way is about all of us. we have been taught so much to see ourselves and the other who will will not know and this is the film in which the other is yourself and the human being and a conversation between an american and pakistani, both equally complicated, equally contradictory, equally human. human beings. tavis: what say you about this notion, what we are up against to my read, the obstacle we are
most up against is the contesta tion of the humanity of the other. of the others humanity. tommy what your film has to say about that and i want to go further. >> so often we do not know and we do not know the person's family, what they believed in, with a laugh about, whether they are married, whether the coral. there are human attributes. this is what it is about. this is what our lives are like. if you do not know and if you do not see, you certainly are much quicker to judge that person as this hysterical or belonging to a faceless, nameless race who do not believe in what you believe in. which is really what is given to us. we never know that by its name or his or her name. we want to demystify that and to make that person alive in all their complexity and in doing so, really take the hot-blooded
political theories we bandy about in our lives and understand them through human beings and that is what my film is doing. not just one human being, but an american equally. it is a dialogue truly between two worlds that deserve to speak to each other. tavis: to your notion of these political theories. they're more than theories. there are geopolitics they are aced upon. -- based upon. juxtapose for me this notion, this we are the world notion that you started this conversation talking about. i am you and your me and what matters to me matters to you. our destiny as human beings is balanced -- bound together. this notion about we are the world with the geopolitics on the ground which do have all these wars happening, these factions that are fighting against each other.
if you were talking to an eight- year-old or a 10-year-old, how do square that we are the world and i am my brother or sister's ander with the infighting overars balanced and the fights water and territory in space. i do not think that a 10-year- old knows how to get there. >> i'd do not want to say that we are the world and that we are not distinct from each other. i want to say that the humanity that is our foundation is common. but my culture, my beliefs, my saying what makes me and what makes me happy and what makes -- the language i speak in and the relationships i have in the world are distinctive. it is functionally formed in a different way than let's say an american is formed but the humanity is common but the way in which we live has to be known as distinctive and is distinctive. cookie cut to be
the same being. we do not know what over water it is like to live on the other side. instead what we are given is really a faceless this and whitewashed trade we do not get -- we get the noble soldiers who will often fight for freedom and democracy but we will never know on whom the bombs rain, if that woman has lost her home and family, what will her future be. we do not understand the actual videoy that becomes a war for the rest of the world. it is a drone, it is a game. it is not something we understand the impact of. that is what i am trying to do and it almost sounds terribly serious but really, it is an expiration of the fact that humanity is common but the path to finding out who we really are is also common.
we also come from different places and it is about time we understand what that place in all its complexity is. tavis: since you went there i want to follow you there. this almost debate we're having in in this country now about the drones and because you are a resident of the world into other places be on this country, what is your sense of how the world is viewing us with the use of these drones? thankfully for me at least, congress is starting to take this issue a bit more seriously. the obama administration is not as transparent as they ought to be about this issue. i am glad to see you stepping up and asking the tough questions. someone will have to give year on what the process is for when, where, and how we use these drones but since you are again a citizen of the world beyond this country, what is your sense of how the world is looking at us with the use of these unmanned
air vehicles known as drones? >> it is a dreaded example of what american is -- america is doing. the fact that there is impunity. no one will ever get hurt in a drone. the drone simply hurts below. extraordinarily civilian casualties preyed just last week, 18 afghan he children wrapped up like little dolls, dead create often just collateral damage. i am just a human being who laments that loss and i have never seen in all these 12 years of the drones in operation of the war multiplying. i have not seen a sliver of progress in this. i look at that and i think, what is the future of this? this is not going to take us to any form of understanding.
tavis: you spend a good part of your time in uganda. uganda specifically. give me some sense of how africa, the continent, is being regarded or not at this particular moment in history. i ask that in part because there is a great debate raging about china and its advance onto the continent of africa trade whether or not china is the next country to colonize africa. what that really means. give u some sense of where the africa conversation is right about now. >> i live in uganda. africa is in a number scott bennett -- an enormous continent. it is a very -- it is a lively place. it is a place that the multi-- party system has finally come in a few years ago. there are elections, there is
the opposition. it is loaded. it is not always simple as to the people who would be heard. there is an active voice of the people. there is generally a feeling of real civil rights and safety where i live. is a greater source of tension and our neighbor. and the economy is just sort of rooming in the last few years especially now since the discovery of oil. there is all kinds of apprehension and tension in terms of what would happen in the next year. at it is generally speaking place that i find great dignity and great power. people -- education is the cornerstone of people's lives. if they do not have anything, they will have the school uniform and make sure the school fees are paid whether you go from house to house to collect it or whatever, the school must the -- we must go to school.
that kind of emphasis, in contrast to india where poverty is so extreme and the wealth is so extreme and beggars and the have-nots and the halves are constantly juxtaposed with each other. in uganda, i have never seen that level of poverty. even though we have so much less than india does. because people have their food, they have their bases of living. and there is a certain kind of existence of civil rights which you can breathe and you can be easy. there is so much to do. and there is so much to do in terms of new leadership, hoping that this work toward democracy will create new leadership that will learn from the mistakes of the old. your sense of
the future, the immediate future of india question mark your talking major power, you talk about the u.s. and india is coming on. they are coming on strong. give me a sense of what india will look like in the coming years. mostdia is the unbelievably vigorous place. wealth to see it grow as much as it is is for me almost more disturbing because you see the fact of so many who do not have, not even a sliver of what those who have now have. -- discrepancy, i see some improvement. india could be -- continue to
be a place where there is privileged and unprivileged and the social tension which comes with that. until we get to the heart of real india. until those rights, until that liberty and the basic human rights come to that person. india will not progress as it should. >> it is clear that you believe in doing work that matters when it comes -- and he comes through with the choices you have made. >> life is short and you have to do it. tavis: those choices are informed by something. informedinto form -- by which you see the world. how youw it is and chose this profession to express that and maybe the profession shows you.
>> i was lucky to find film when i was 20. i came on a scholarship to harvard and i came to act. the theater did not appeal to me. i was lucky to find documentary filmmaking. it was a way to engage with the world and a way to engage visually because i love to look at the frame, i love to look at the world. and it was a way to hold a mirror to whatever consumes us as a purse -- people and a society. take you for a ride. i love fun, i love laughter, i love fashion, i love music and music is the breath of life to me. it is a way to harness my distinctiveness but speak of the world as i know it and as i experience it as well. so often, to a place ofome
great insularity and we do not know that we're one speck of a larger larger universe. i think i am kind of put on this earth to speak of being between worlds in my films. tell me why this round has not been tilled before in a way that you are offering it to us in this project area >> it is hard. "the reluctant fundamentalist" is a coming-of-age story. what we have never heard the story from the subcontinental side coming to this country, number one. game of a novel
and he gave me the possibility of the young man who loves america and comes here and makes good and is betrayed by the country he is in love with and returns home. a character meets played with incredible nuance. bobby is much of flesh and blood character. and understanding the question of whether someone from another country can come to a country and really have the best intentions for that country will really ever the -- belong, be at home in that place. this is a notion that both men are grappling with. so number one, that coming-of- age story is what compelled me. and secondly, it is that we do not know the other side. i think very much in these two men at a table talking about who, what makes them tick and what they are here to do, we humanize, we bring this world
to a greater audience. i think it is about time that we understand what it is like on both sides of the ocean. weis: given how nativist americans can be, i do not want to indict all of us, do you think we care? >> i think now what i am facing with even just the reaction to this film is that people are hungry to know. destruction.d of they are tired of the fact that the government -- what bush did, you're either with us or against us, there are good guys and bad guys. this reductive is him of this that box is not working. the person on the street wants to know more and question this world. the world is not ringing us any closer. forget about the other side. even within our homes, even with the kind of danger we have to live with and the insecurity we
have to live with, this is the reason. if we do not understand each other and as we continue to use war, it is going to come back to haunt us. tavis: what does this bring to any project that you direct? well, i think everything one does is a political act. if you are living in this world and having a sense of humility and loving people as i do, i try to bring that, i try to try to bringve, i that understanding, and i also tried to bring sometimes the questioning. sometimes it is prickly and sometimes it is located. when you look at a place with that love, without intimacy then you have to also have at least
i tried too it is stay unflinching. i come to it with love. that is what i hope to bring in my work. and i always believe that if we do not tell our own stories, no one else will tell them. you had better tell them well and you had better tell them in a way that interchange entrance ports and hopefully provokes. you are imagining something different. also imagining seeing yourself in it. it is not that it is about someone else. it is about us. that could be the answer to the exit question. for what thehope takeaway will be from this project? >> i hope that people begin to question the truth is -- that is handed out to us.
i hope they see themselves in the characters and this journey. i hope that they will ask themselves where do we matter, where world we be heard, what are we doing in the broader sense of living life, who are we serving? does it lead to russian mark --? charismaticost performance as the protagonist. this film has never been seen before. to have an indian director make a pakistani film about a pakistani young man who is supported by the serious actors in hollywood and hollywood.
but the shift to power is itself a very interesting and that is an asian man's table -- tale. think of as fundamentalism, the fundamentalism of money and religion. understanding that there is a parallel in both that speaks to us as a people. tavis: i love that. comesood and ballywood together. good to have you here. >> good to be here. .avis: that is our show thanks for watching. as always until next time, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a ce brosation with pier
nan. that is next time. we will see you then. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more.
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