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tv   Amanpour Company  PBS  February 19, 2019 4:00pm-5:01pm PST

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. hello, everyone. and welcome to amanpour and company. here's what's coming up. >> i didn't need to do this but i'd rather do it much faster. >> legal and political fears for the president's emergency declaration. democratic senator chris coons on what's to come. and one of trump's closest confidants on the presidential mind-set. plus. >> i want to run away. >> that's what the drinking is about. >> a candid look at growing up with the specter of domestic abuse. how skateboarding saved director bing yu's life. and matthew broderick and director sean snider speak about their dark comedy "to dust."
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uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & company." when bea tollman's 60 year culinary career began, she didn't know the recipes from her cookbook would make her way to her river cruise line. uniworld. bea's locally inspired cuisine is served while cruising through europe, asia, india, and egypt. because according to bea, to travel is to eat. bookings available through your travel adviser. for more information, visit uniworld.com. >> additional support has been provided by -- rosalind p. walter. bernard and irene schwartz. sue and edgar wachenheim iii. the cheryl and philip milstein family. seton melvin. judy and josh weston. the jpb foundation. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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welcome to the program, everyone. i'm christiane amanpour in london. the emergency is declared and the challenges are pointing. california and at least six other states are preparing lawsuits to block the white house from using an executive order to get wall funds. and congress may yet try to block him through legislation. but as ever investigations into the president hangs like a dark cloud over everything that happens in washington. this weekend for the first time we got intimate details of how and why the fbi started investigating whether the president obstructed justice and was beholden to russia. the former deputy fbi director andrew mccabe described in detail a debate about whether to secretly record the president in the oval office. and he says this about how the inquiry started. >> the idea is if the president committed obstruction of
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justice, fired the director of the fbi to negatively impact or to shutdown our investigation of russia's maligned activity in pospaekt support of his campaign, as a counter intelligence investigator, you have to ask yourself why would a president of the united states do that? so all those same sorts of facts cause us to wonder is there an inappropriate relationship, a connection between this president and our most fearsome enemy, the government of russia? >> well, senator chris coons from delaware sits on the senate's powerful foreign affairs and judiciary committees. we talked about all the political intrigue mounting back home and what america's closest allies are thinking when he joined me here in our london studios. senator coons, welcome to the program. >> thank you. >> good to have you in london sitting at our desk, and you
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just came back from a really important annual event and americans take it seriously. what was the tone? how would you say the united states government was received? >> we have the largest congressional delegation in the-lace of the munich conference, more than 50. almost two dozen senators, dozens of congress members. so i think that was positive and that was us voting with our feet to say we value nato, the transatlantic relationship and we wanted to be present to express our support. more broadly the tone was difficult. angela merkel delivered an address that was very pointed and which i think the most pointed expression she gave was that the united states is no longer a reliable ally. >> that's quite scary to hear and quite difficult. i just wonder whether we're going to play this sort of welcome from vice president mike pence who was also there and this is how he addressed the conference. >> i bring greetings from the 45th president of the united states of america, president
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donald trump. >> that was such a poignant pause, that was about five seconds of silence. normally you'd have your allies clapping when the 45th president's greetings were conveyed. but it was an awkward, awkward moment. and because they just don't think the u.s. is reliable partner? what is the meet aat and motato behind that? >> he's proven himself to be unpredictable and unconventional which is what he campaigned. a very abrupt announcement of the withdrawal of all american forces from syria, a decision taken without any consultation with our allies who are are currently fighting alongside us in the conflict of isis are with any leaders in congress. so we'll see whether the senate asserts itself, whether the republican majority is willing again more forcefully than what was done last week to assert
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some independence and to insist on a more measured withdrawal and more consultation or whether they simply say, okay, mr. president you have the ability to lead us no matter what the circumstances, no matter how wise or unwise. >> and they're very upset about the iran nuclear deal, the u.s. pulling out of that. they think that destabilizes and makes the whole area much less safe. and whether they focus on the political goingings in the united states. people all over the world figuring out what's happening in the white house, what's happening with the mueller probe. and to that a huge amount of attention has gone to andrew mccabe, the deputy fbi director who's just written a book and did an interview on "60 minutes." let's just play this sound bite and then we'll talk about it. >> the president launched into several unrelated diatrives. one of those was commenting on the recent missile launches by
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the government of north korea. and essentially the president said he did not believe that north koreans had the capability to hit us here with ballistic missiles in the united states, and he did not believe that because president putin had told him they did not. president putin had told him that the north koreans don't actually have those missiles. >> and u.s. intelligence was telling the president what? >> intelligence officials in the briefing responded that that was not consistent with any of the intelligence our government possesses. to which the president replied, i don't care, i believe putin. >> why is that not a five alarm fire? >> it is. it's stunning. that we've had several demonstrations of our president not believing our own intelligence community, their assessment of russia's interference in our 2016 election. this new report that the president allegedly didn't believe our intelligence community's assessment of north
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korea's strategic capabilities. i'll remind you our intelligence community is led by career professionals and not partisan political folks. and their job is to gather actionable intelligence from around the world to make sure our president is able to make informed decisions on some of the most pressing security issues in front of us. >> if i'm not mistaken, it's that very threat that the president was told about that caused him to be so angry at north korea, that caused the whole fire and fury to begin with, that it was being said and he did apparently believe that they had the ability to target the united states. >> well, this throws some question into exactly what he knew, what he believed, when he knew it. i didn't get to see the entire interview with andrew mccabe, so i don't want to misstate this, but to me it's just another troubling assertion by someone who was at a senior level in u.s. law enforcement that our president frequently took the word of foreign leaders over our own intelligence. >> and not just any foreign
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leader. this is a foreign leader who's accused of meddling on behalf or to the advantage of president trump in the u.s. democratic process. and in many of the allies presumably as well. but you're on the senate judiciary committee and the foreign relations committee. and we've heard from the house and their relevant committees that they're going to try to compel potentially president trump to disclose the substance of the secret or private conversations that he had and has had with president putin. do you think that's important that we should know that? >> well, it's caused a great deal of concern that president trump has repeatedly had conversations with president putin on the margins of great, you know, large gatherings like the g-20 or what he did in helsinki, have a conversation without translators, without a read out of that conversation being shared with our intelligence community. these are just a few of a whole
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range of very concerning actions our president has taken. i'll tell you at the munich conference the lack of predictability about exactly where we're headed in afghanistan, in syria, and whether or not we're going to finish the job and standby the kurds who fought alongside us was the thing that caused the most concern. but all of this was against the backdrop of our president's unpredictable and disconcerting steps. >> what did they make of the tweets that was quite disconcerting, the president's tweet this weekend that said to this regard, that the u.s. would release 800 or so isis prisoners unless european nations from where these people came, these foreign fighters, would put them on trial and deal with them. >> you know, i don't think that was received very well. i think conducting diplomacy and security negotiations by twitter is probably not the best way to do it. on a number of occasions i've urged our president to put the
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phone down and stop tweeting issues of this sort of sensitivity. i do think that we -- we have ongoing security challenges with isis. the isis caliphate is not yet completely defeated. they may lose control of all territory shortly here, but there are still thousands of foreign fighters, of isis fighters both on the ground in iraq and syria and potentially returning to europe from detention. we have to handle this cautiously, carefully. we have one of the closest security relationships imaginable with the u.k. that our president would be threatening the untimely release of foreign nationals or foreign fighters who might return to the u.k. and to western europe, it doesn't help advance -- >> it's quite frightening to think all these people who have been, you know, drag netted up from the battlefield could suddenly be free. let's go back to andrew mccabe. the clip we have is where mccabe is talking about the whole crisis scandal about the justice
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department about either ordering or not ordering the wearing of a wire to wiretap the president. >> the general council of the fbi and team you spoke with said what about this idea? >> i think the general counsel had a heart attack. when we got up off the floor he said that's a bridge too far, we're not there yet. >> i see you nodding. a bridge too far. >> yes. as i said i haven't watched this whole interview yet. i've been in europe when this aired. but i do think there are some very troubling allegations being raised by this interview that we will almost certainly look at on the senate judiciary committee. the senate judiciary committee in the last congress tried to conduct oversight hearings into the ongoing probe into russian interference, into some of the more unconventional actions into the early days of the trump administration. but it ran aground onartisan differentiates in terms of which witnesses to call, who was going
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to be questioned. we have a new committee chairman in lindsey graham. it's my hope he will recall a broader range of the potential witnesses so that we will actually look at the underlying issues, not just exploring this deep state conspiracy theory but actually continuing our appropriate and bipartisan oversight role as a committee. >> you mention lindsey graham and he is a supporter of the president on many issues, and he's actually lambasted this as a bureaucratic coup against the elected leader potentially. >> i think that's an allegation worth airing thoroughly because when someone of senator graham's significance lands such a forceful allegation and it aligns with what the president is saying about the mueller probe and about the rule of law and about the fbi, that's worth debating in open, in public and then making sure we've got a balanced group of witnesses testifying in front of the committee. i want to give senator graham credit for being a cosponsor with me of legislation two
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congresses now in a row to protect the mueller probe. he has consistently pushed back on the president's characterization of the mueller probe as a witch hunt and has called for the full release of the final mueller report, something i've been fighting for. but when it comes to the mccabe allegations, chairman graham has been pushing back very hard. his suggestion that this amounts to an administrative attempted coup, i reject. but i think we ought to have hearings into this. i think we ought to air it and we shouldn't be leaving the american people with the disconcerting sense there's something improper going on here. the fbi deserves the opportunity to explain the foundation and legitimacy of this ongoing investigation. >> so the idea that lindsey graham has called this a potential attempted coup, you the democrats, have said in relation to president trump declaring a state of emergency and moving money from one department to another, a gross abuse of power.
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why? i mean other presidents have declared states of emergency. george w. bush did more than a dozen times. president obama did more than a dozen times. >> two things. this is not just democrats saying this. lamar alexander, very seasoned republican from tennessee said it was unwise, unwarranted and defies the spirit of the constitution. both senator johnson who's chairman of homeland security, senator tillis who serves with me on judiciary have expressed grave concern about what sort of precedent this sets. because this isn't in response to an emergency that has presented itself with such force that there's no time for us to have a legislative process. in fact, we've debated the president's requests for funding a border wall three congresses in a row. i'll remind you when the republicans controlled the house and the senate, they didn't provide anything like 6 or $7 billion to build a great big beautiful concrete wall. we have reached a bipartisan consensus in the congress about
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how much to invest in border security and what sort of border fencing to build and the president is trying to go around the constitutionally mandated role of congress in spending by declaring an emergency. i'm not saying our border is secure. it isn't. i'm not saying we don't have concerns about border security. we do. but republicans and democrats in the congress came to a common understanding. we've passed legislation and presented it to the president. ergency and trying to do an end around, and we've already reallocated for defense and department purposes. >> are you surprised by the senate leadership, mitch mcconnell who said openly and told the president we're not going to support you on this declaration of emergency now does. >> he understands and has jealously guarded some of the most important prerogatives of the senate. i appreciate that senator mcconnell has refused to try and
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end the legislative filibuster even though president trump has repeatedly berated him about that. i appreciate that some of my republican colleagues continue to defend the importance of the rule of law and protecting the mueller investigation. but i am concerned that when push comes to shove, when we actually have to cast votes, far too few of them have been willing to stand up against their president of their party. our president but of their party when it comes to protecting the senate, protecting the rule of law, and protecting the mueller investigation. these next couple of weeks will be very consequential. >> senator chris coons thank you very much indeed. >> thank you, christian. >> president trump made some time for his allies in the conservative media who have been the strongest voices advocating for a border wall. >> mr. president, could you tell us to what degree some of the outside conservative voices helped to shape your views on this national emergency?
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>> i always talk about it. look, sean hannity has been a terrific, terrific supporter of what i do. rush limbaugh, i think he's a great guy. they don't decide policy. >> now, as ever we asked the white house and other administration officials to join us here and member of trump's mar-a-lago club. he often dines with the president. he's joining me now from boca roton, florida. >> great being back with you. >> i said you're a member of the kitchen cabinet, so to speak. in fact, you were with him this weekend. so i want to ask you how he's reacting to some of the backlash. you heard what he just said in
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our clip about rush limbaugh and sean hannity. but it looks like conservatives are sort of split on this national emergency business. >> well, a couple of things. first let me say i don't speak for the president. full disclosure i support the president generally on most policies although we have some disagreements on a few things. and i think he's doing a fantastic job. and the border security issue, and he and i chatted about this this weekend, has been a winning issue for him. you know, so many people in the media, they live in a bubble. they don't realize border security is a very big issue with the public. in the era of 9/11 where we have to go through metal scans and almost disrobe sometimes at airports, the idea that anybody could just walk across the border and potential terrorists could walk across the border i think is a threat to the united states and our national security. certainly there's economic issues and impact. the president has made this a very big issue. i think the polling data shows
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that the public supports border security. i think the democrats even when they're giving some of the money and they're realizing this, they know this is losing issue for them. n now, whether the border wall should be concrete or steel or slats or cement, that's an issue i think could be a matter of compromise. ultimately i believe the president would compromise on the issue. he's already said he wants the steel, he's very willing to have a steel barrier. so all of this i think will be discussed down the road. and i think the president in terms of the national emergency funding, yes, some conservatives even myself i have reservations. i think he has the legal authority to do it. i think it is a crisis situation. i do think he has all the cards. i mentioned this to him over the weekend. i said the democrats can't pass legislation going forward unless you sign it. and i think there's going to we a willingness later after this continuing funding is now behind us for a compromise path here.
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>> clearly everybody is concerned about border security. every country has the right to have its sovereign territory protected. the argument is whether it's really a crisis or whether it's manufactured. i could sit here and spew to you all the figures that show the majority of gangsters and drugs and criminals and illegals overstaying visas come entirety from different areas than that border. however, we're not going to get mixed up in that right now. i'm just going to ask you, you yourself say, you know, you have a sort of mixed reaction to the declaration of a state of emergency or a national emergency. i guess the question is, you know, it looks like the president invoked that, you know, because he couldn't get the money out of congress. so he said, okay, i'm just going to do this executive thing and set a precedent. are you not concerned, that, a, it'll be challenged in court, and b, it could cause -- you know, a democrat could declare a
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gun state of emergency or a climate state of emergency or any such thing? >> i would much rather this be handled, christian, in the congressional authorization process. i think there is an area of compromise. i think the president felt there was no alternative. he's already been there two years. congress has been unwilling to grant the funds. even though there is a security threat and you're saying we shouldn't talk about it too much or go back over history, i remember on the cover of news max magazine i think in 2008 i think it was, we did a cover story with governor bill richardson of new mexico. he was actually the first guy to declare it a border crisis. those were his words. if you look back he was on cnn at the time. i remember it very well. there have been -- we now know there's anywhere between 10 to 14 million illegals in the united states. it's not just the issue of people committing crimes. it's the impact, the states like
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new mexico, arizona and california have seen their social service systems swamped. there's been all sorts of stresses on those economies because of those folks coming across. >> i mean, chris ruddy, look, i'm not saying we shouldn't be concerned about it. of course one should be concerned about security. i'm just saying we have to care about the facts and even republican mayors at el paso and all those people say these facts are not operative right now. it is much safer, they have got it under control. the crime rate which was very high, plummeted because of measures that were taken way before a wall went up. but can i ask you, and of course you're right, though, it is an election issue and the president's made it a successful one. those are two different things. >> but i think you have to admit that, christian, the president's been in office for two years and he's reduced the number of illegal boarding -- because of executive action he's taken of
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laws already in the books. he has been solving the very crisis that he inherited. he feels, i think, frustrated that we're just not stopping this problem. every country -- what country in the world would not have secure borders? and somehow it's accepted that the u.s. united states should have a porous border and anybody can walk across it. i think he's saying wait a minute, washington, why is this acceptable? and, you know, the people in hollywood and new york and the belt way, they don't like him taking this stand. but i go out and you talk to people in new hampshire, illinois or different places enjoys pretty broad nd i think support -- >> so tell me how he's feeling about it? he was playing golf. i don't know if you played golf with him over the weekend. how is he feeling about that right now and about what andrew mccabe, for instance, has been saying very confident he's
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going to win on this border issue. it's a good issue for him and the public and it's good for america. i got the sense he feels the media is still out to get him so to speak. he's particularly not happy with the things he keeps seeing in various programs. and the whole issue of the mccabe thing, we didn't really get into that much -- >> sorry, hate to interrupt you. time is just running down a little bit. but i want to ask you specifically because he is going to north korea and i think he feels that he has a rapport going and that he could, you know, achieve something to really ratchet down the pressures there. but what do you make of mccabe saying that the president didn't believe his own intelligence about north korea's capabilities
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but rather believed putin instead? >> well, i mean this is interesting. you raised the issue of intelligence. you know, the intelligence chiefs including the director of national intelligence dan coats just went before an open session of congress, and they openly said they believe the president's policies and efforts in north korea are going to fail based on the intelligence. i think you have a classic example here where director coats is trying to make policy and not inform policy. the purpose of intelligence is to give the president the facts, let him decide and make the decisions. not to publicly declare that his policies are going to fail a week before he goes over to north korea on this very important summit. and christian, i'm hearing from sources around the white house there's just general disappointment of the president with director coats. there's a feeling that -- >> uh-oh. >> maybe there needs to be a change of leadership coming up.
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>> did you talk to him about it? do you think he'll dismiss director coats? >> well, i don't know what his plan is. he doesn't tell me who he's going to dismiss or not. i have talked to various people, not him, that are very close in the white house with the security position the president is taking. and i think generally there's a deep concern that on the eve of the north korea to have your director of national intelligence and open hearings undercutting your position was very bad for him. >> obviously the president's going to hanoi and not north korea, but he's going to meet the north korea leader there in vietnam. do you think it's weird on the verge of going there we understand that he trusts putin more than his own intelligence. i know you've described the intelligence, but nonetheless he trusts putin more than he does american, you know, patriots who work for the american government. >> well, i think that's a statement based on what mccabe
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said in a private conversation. i think the president, from what i can see and my dealings with him, he has a lot of confidence generally in the agencies that work for him. he's been very tough on putin. he's armed the ukrainians, he's enforced the sanctions. he's calling for the end of the north stream gas pipeline which would only help russia and give them leverage over europe. he's the only guy standing up against that pipeline in europe. you know, so you have to ask yourself if he's so pro-putin why is -- why are all of his actions, christian, against putin and very strongly against? he's taking on putin in venezuela. i don't think putin likes the fact that the president is going after iran with sanctions. that's an ally of putin. so all over the world the president while he might be extending an olive branch to putin, which i think is perfectly fine, obama did it,
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george w. bush, i think he's doing the very smart thing of building up his leverage, his assets and his strengths. and he's getting our allies to start doing the same. and i think it's to be commended. >> all right, chris ruddy, thank you so much for joining us. thank you very much indeed. president trump often professes to be the voice of the forgotten men and women in america. once full of promise and now full of depaispair, places like rockford, illinois. and that's where we find an extraordinary story. he began filming a documentary about his friends which they love doing most which is skateboarding. but it soon turned into an essay on something much deeper and much more powerful. skateboarding was their way of escaping their pain and frustration. here's a clip from the trailer. >> when you're a kid you just do, you just act. and then somewhere along the
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line everyone loses that. >> i knew you had some huge weight on you. skateboarding meant more to you. it was kind of a life or death thing. >> i remember hearing screaming coming from your room, and it was like really, really unnerving. >> so the film is minding the gap, and the director bing lu jones me now from new york. welcome to the program. >> thanks for having me. >> it really is an extraordinary film. it's about 930 minutes of an incredible story you tell. what made you start doing that, and how many years ago did you start? >> so the film covers 12 years because that's how much footage i was able to get. but i started in earnest in 2012, so, you know, five or six years ago before i premiered at s sundance. and i was drawn to this idea of, you know, young people being able to explore things that
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typically we don't get to see them explore, especially young men and doing it on-screen. so what i started doing is actually going around the country in the united states and started following skateboarders from all over. and a year in i went back to rockford, illinois, i i grew up mpany in chicago where i was of living, and they're best known for a film called hoop dreams, and that's when i realized oh, documentaries can be like fiction films in the sense it can follow characters and out of these characters lives then we can get on the same issues and themes without being on the nose about it. so that's when i started committing to a long form project like this. >> you're one of the characters, although you're mostly the interrogator or questioner, if you like. then there's zack and there's cier as well. i'm going to play this clip
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which really focuses on kierr for a while, and it's about the moment you sort of reveal the domestic abuse and violence that he's been through that turns out links all of you in this film. let's just take a look. >> how did you get disciplined? >> what do they call it? child abuse now but it -- >> that makes you angry. like, oh, god. it like boils my blood, dude. like ugh. >> how bad did it get?
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like did you ever cry? >> oh, of course. of course. like, i mean, wouldn't you? >> i did cry. >> i feel like everybody cried. >> and so kier is telling his story and suddenly you're telling your story, i did cry. just explain to me as the director, the storyteller, what it was like to discover that you had this commonality and what was your story of abuse? >> so like i said i started about a year going and doing this ensemble piece and discovered a lot of stories of abuse, sometimes with people i was sitting down with for the first time. and with this case with kier he's eight years younger than me
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so i didn't really know him growing up. and it was, you know, i think every time i hear it, it doesn't get easier to hear. you know, it brings me back to this time when i felt like i was walking on egg shells when i was growing up. and, you know, the way that kier sort of has this shameful feeling around talking about it, reminded me of myself when i was his age. so there was automatically that tension there that i felt with him, but i also was excited about the possibility of being able to process it with him. which he was really willing to do. that conversation we had lasted for a couple of hours on camera, and then we talked a lot longer off camera. >> and then your own story, which is sort of fleshed out, when you put your mother in front of your camera and you sit her down and ask her really painful questions about why she allowed your stepfather and whoever was in your lives after your father died, to beat you
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up. and it was really painful to watch. i wonder how you felt asking your mother those questions and seeing her visible pain, and whether you got any resolution and whether she did. >> i think that, you know, the conversations just started to have a gravitational pull. i didn't go into the conversation thinking i was going to confront her like that. i knew we were going to talk about the past. but once she did start talking about the past, and it's a two way street. i think she was really vulnerable and really forthright about had some of the violent incidents that happened in the household. but once that happened i think the 9-year-old, the 8-year-old, the 10-year-old version of myself started wanting answers in a way i didn't expect when i first entered that conversation. i think i got brought back to this place i often tried to compartmentallize. and i was brought back to this place where i was a little boy
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wanting my mom's protection and she wasn't giving it to me. so i think that's what made that conversation really difficult. >> do you feel you got closure? >> i don't think i'm ever going to have closure in a sense that, you know, i can leave this part of my life behind me. i think just because i experienced so much trauma for careers and years as a child, i think, you know, it's just a part of me and i have to learn how every day to, you know, be a better person and to make decisions that, you know, allow me to not continue that same cycle that i witnessed. >> and was skateboarding sort of a therapy? obviously a sport, something fun to do -- was the skateboarding and the filming of it and the amazing acrobatics, you and your two friends perform, what was all that about? how did that figure? >> in hindsight i feel i have a lot of theoretical frameworks around it, but at the time it really did feel like just regaining a sense of control. control over our bodies, control over the way we've experienced
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pain. i think a lot of times when young people experience pain that they don't understand or it seems unfair or there seems to be a lack of causality as to why that pain is happening. you know, you do something like skateboarding and all of a sudden you start to get a sense of control over your body and pain and by extension your life for just, you know, a split second while you're out doing it. >> being the third in the trio there is zack, and he has a girlfriend nina, and then they have a kid, a little baby called elliot. and you again reveal that actually zack has been beating nina up on occasion. what was it like to suddenly realize that -- that you're telling the audience this, that you're asking nina about it and to an extent zack, how did you deal with putting that on film and not making it worse between them? >> well, one of the things i did was i took a 40-hour domestic violence advocacy course.
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and i learned from organizations how to safely work with people in situations like that so that, you know, you're looking out for the safety and livelihood for all those involved. and i think a lot of times people's gut reaction is just to go to the authorities or intervene. but i think sometimes that can make it worse, especially if the couple really still wants to try to make it work with their relationship, which was what was happening during the fillip am so what i had to do was always be on guard and ready to intervene, but at the same time to know to call the authorities or to intervene might make the situation worse. in terms of making the film, you know, i think i had to just -- that's why i put myself in the film actually. i didn't intend to go in and put my own story into it, but i think it just helped the film just get more of a perspective especially for the audience in terms of why is the filmmaker going deeper into this very private matter, into this very
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intimate touchy material? >> bing lu, it is a remarkable film. congratulations and thanks for being with us this evening. and we move now from that incredible story of friendship and growth to an unlikely partnership in the new film "to dust." haunted by her wife's death wonders what happens to our bodies after we die, so he enlists the help of a biology professor. diving into that journey with broderick and also with the film's director sean snider. >> thank you both. sean, what's this movie about? >> to dust is about a hasidic and he's striving for spiritual solace but his grief is spilling outside the boundaries and manifesting itself about
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nightmares about his wife's decomposing corpse and this need to understand what's happening with her body. that obsession with death and that inquiry what might be science is very taboo in his community. and that search lands him at a community college where he meet albert played by matthew broderick as a bit of a bewildered college biology professor. and the two embark on this homespun world of forensic research and essentially trying to find peace and grieve in a way that finds wholly personal. >> you're sitting in a cafe and he describes this to you, and what leaps out i want to play a biaelg teach biology teacher that is going to look at what? >> dead bodies, yes. it's an unusual story, but it's very human. the dialogue was really funny and good, i thought.
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and the story was fascinating and i met with sean and i just liked the script from the time i read it. >> there is a buddy comedy that's evolving, and i think as the audience starts to figure this out, wait a minute, there's this other story line happening. you guys have a reference to hardy boys. >> yeah, we're kind of -- we're solving a mystery. that's true, you know? >> there's moments i call it hasidic scientific b horror bud buddy dramady. >> is there an oscar for that? >> they put it out but then it got backlash. >> consolidate it. >> let's take a look at a clip, a little bit of sort of buddy comedy here. >> listen, i'm a professor and you are a rabbi and i think you
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have seriously crossed the stated boundaries of the professor-rabbi relationship. >> i'm a jew. >> oh, no [ bleep ]. >> and i just can't. i can't. >> what? >> i stole the pig. it is only fair if you kill it. >> what? what? >> he has to kill the pig. >> i am not hearing this. you and me we're going to pick up this pig and we're going to carry it into your jew wagon and then you are going to take it home. and we're not going to talk about this or anything ever again, okay? killing a pig is not going to bring back your wife. >> it was just a strange relationship that develops because they're both kind of in search for something. it's much more explicit what the individual whose wife is deceased is looking for, but there's a curiosity that's been sparked. >> he says he needs a scientist
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because i guess his faith is reaching some limits or he wants to know science, about what's happening. and he doesn't i guess realize i'm barely a scientist. i just teach, you know. but i guess i was. i probably originally did want to do more science than just teaching people. so it's an opportunity for albert, the man i played, to kind of get in the field and solve the mystery. >> there's a lot of material in here that i think when the first time if someone is introduced to it they would find gory or icy, or oh, my god, am i watching this happen? i think there's a certain almost universal absurdity to it all, how do we deal with this topic? we don't really talk about it. >> i think the human condition is absurd, we don't have
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very healthy relationships with death. the funeral industry does so much and our faith does so much to politicize or forestall or embalm or say this casket is going to preserve this body forever, and it's all about shying away from the harsh existential reality and biological reality of what happens to our bodies. and i'm incredibly squeamish and i think you're incredibly squeamish, too, and this comes from my own grief. i lost my mom ten years ago. i had these thoughts, and we all have these thoughts and we think we're weird or strange or morbid and then we feel embarrassed or ashamed. and if you can air these thoughts and if you can air them by casting them through some lens of humor as well, it's the sugar that helps swallow the
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medicine, that not only do we -- should one have permission to look at these things without feeling ostracized, but that if one were to engage with it, there's actually a spiritual beauty to the way a body returns to the earth unencumbered. >> you've got kids that are old enough. you must have had conversations with about -- >> you mean like what to do with me? no, like sean, like most people i kind of avoid it i guess. i've been working in new mexico and there's an ad on the freeway that says death is coming, plan for it. dial 1-800 -- i don't know what it is. it says death is coming. so then i don't know why we're talking about this, but, you know, an irish wake, you spend some time with the actual body. you know, and a lot of religions and cultures have that, because
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it's the way you kind of know what's happened. so somebody is just -- a body is just whisked away as if it just floated off. >> or there's almost a sterilization, like it's embalmed perfectly, dressed in this hermetically sealed thing and it's a very strange -- >> i know. and i think the family and loved ones, they miss an important step in a way, painful as it might be. there is probably something good about really sort of facing what's happened. >> i know in the hindu tradition there's a very physical connection. in this movie and this tradition, bathing that body, and just touching that person. and your co-star actually is, what, part of a team of people that have done this? >> for at least 15 years has been and continues to be a member of the -- which i believe is a holy brother hood of the
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jewish burial society. and there's men who bathe and ritually prepare male bodies and a group of females who prepare female bodies. and they do this for their community. and he describes it as not morbid but a spiritually up lifting act, so much so while even though he's become an actor, he continues to do this. and he likens it to prayer. >> did that come up while you guys were in adjacent trailers to one another? >> i mean it's clearly a serious matter. >> you assume with goesa this would come up the first time we spoke ability this topic. and i had to have a friend put me through a new yorker article -- >> he knows everything about this subject. >> so did this create an opportunity for you to not avoid this topic in your own life? >> it made me think about it. but, you know, as much as we're
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talking about it, the movie is really a human story about this guy trying to get over his nightmares. >> yeah. >> and at the same time we try not to shy away from it. >> no, we don't shy away for it, but it's not -- it's not like kinky or something. it's not like cool, a dead body stuff. >> there's even a scene outside of the body farm that's, you know, it just kind of is that comic relief almost where you're talking to the security guard. you're trying to explain there's nothing weird going on here. it's not what you think. >> yeah, it's a lovely little scene, yeah. she's going to arrest us for looking or peeking over the fence. it's a real thing at a body farm where they put a body in a car or a lake to see haulg it the g
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though, finds out the pain that gaza is in, and she's lost her son to cancer, yeah. so she immediately identifies with him and lets us go. >> well, how does she die? >> huh? >> his wife? >> oh, she died of cancer. >> [ bleep ] cancer. >> yeah. terrible, terrible disease. >> took my mama, my husband and my youngest duvell. >> oh, that's [ bleep ] horrible. >> [ bleep ] cancer. >> [ bleep ] cancer. so that's what this is. he's in bad shape, and i was trying to help him out, trying
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to help a friend out. we've been traveling a very, very long way. >> but i can't let you into the grounds. >> no, no absolutely. that would be a mistake. >> but if you gentlemen can high tail it the [ bleep ] out of here, i think i can turn a blind eye. what's your friends name? >> smool. >> when aging myself -- >> and me. >> and ferris bueller obviously, but you go through glory, the producers and have these different cross cuts. what do you look for now when you get a script? >> you know, i've never known really what to look for except something that i like reading, it starts with that. hopefully a little bit it stretches me in some way. i like to think i'm not doing
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something totally comfortable. and then you meet sean or whoever is directing it and then you see how you connect to each other. >> and it's either going to be the people you're going to be around for a time digging into this. >> right, and i just kind of go with my gut. i liked sean when i met him and liked the scripts when i read it. and i thought it was an interesting story. i wanted to work person or a line? >> i remember shooting all night on a little lake in staten island with a row boat for some reason. that was a very kind of beautiful yet uncomfortable night. >> the boat, was it going to be facing forwards or backwards,
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rolling it the right way? >> they rehearsed it to be rowing the boat backwards, and i got there and i was like, sean, i'm not a big yachtsman, but i know central park you don't row that way. >> but there were decisions made in the photography and direction of the boat and positions. and i'm sitting here we're one and a half weeks into production saying what decision do i have to make or call related to the intensity of the performances. and everybody had a different need, but i think we created a beautiful scene. >> we were inside a raised pit as a graveyard in a jewish cemetery, just on the edge. >> oh, wow. >> relocation onto that meadow and there was a guy. >> he was making sure we didn't do anything nonkosher or whatever word one should use.
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but there we were. >> grave digging. >> as close to grave digging as i've ever been. that was odd, and there was fake rain pouring on us. so it was a frankenstein movie and an independence film. >> and the insane thing about it -- >> which insane thing. >> the film we were doing these things. they tell you a film at this budget level should be shot in a house with two exers, and we were underfunded and understaffed and underscheduled, and there was no-no day -- i think about the luxury of people talking about so we were five days into that scene. and i'm like we were five scenes into that day where we were shooting. and there was no day where at a minimum there was a key set piece. and you had 80% of a dialogue and you're speaking these long -- >> are you thinking at that
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point first time rookie director? >> foe, i never thought that except sometimes. the only thing was sometimes is the time crush is hard. but i've done that before. and it also brings an energy to the stuff in a way that's hard to explain. it's sometimes good. i mean, you don't have time to get every piece of coverage you might want. you have to be a little more flexible and improvisational in a way, and that's not a bad thing. >> this whole idea that creativity thrives when its given limits, and it was very humbling. but that's the beauty about all art form, but film in particular goes through so many phases and has so many practical limitations. so it's made in the fire and with gut instinct and love and certainly happy accidents. >> good accidents, absolutely. that's why he didn't like too much, you know, digital or if
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you have too much control over the frame, nothing great will happen. if you're not on the location he used to say, where a siren or ambulance goes by and actors hear it, that might be a really good accident that won't happen if everything's in a room with a green screen and perfect. >> sean snider, matthew broderick, thank you both. >> matthew broderick and sean snider speaking to us about their new dark comedy "to dust" which is outright now. thank you for watching amanpour and company on pbs, and join us again tomorrow night. uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & company." when bea tollman's 60 year culinary career began, she didn't know the recipes from her
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cookbook would make their way to her river cruise line. uniworld. bea's locally inspired cuisine is served while cruising through europe, asia, india, and egypt. because according to bea, to travel is to eat. bookings available through your travel adviser. for more information, visit uniworld.com. >> additional support has been provided by -- rosalind p. walter. bernard and irene schwartz. sue and edgar wachenheim iii. the cheryl and philip milstein family. seton melvin. judy and josh weston. the jpb foundation. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> you're watching pbs.
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