DATE September 22, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Michael Winterbottom discusses his film "In
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev in for Terry Gross.
Michael Winterbottom has made 10 feature films in less than 10 years that on
the surface seem to have very little in common. They include the Balkan War
drama, "Welcome to Sarajevo," adaptations of the Thomas Hardy novels, "Jude
the Obscure" and "The Mayor of Casterbridge," also, "Wonderland," a stark
portrayal of contemporary life in London, and last year's film, "24 Hour Party
People," about the club scene in Manchester in the '80s.
His latest film, "In This World," picks up on perhaps the only constant theme
throughout his work, an interest in the intersection between fiction and
non-fiction, documentary and feature film. It's an unusually realistic
depiction of two young Afghani refugees living in Pakistan, who try to escape
overland to England. The young men, Jamal and his cousin Enayatullah, are
played by non-actors who are real-life refugees from Afghanistan. And their
grueling and often bewildering journey is filmed as if it were a documentary.
I asked Michael Winterbottom what compelled him to make a movie about the
plight of refugees.
Mr. MICHAEL WINTERBOTTOM (Filmmaker): I think the first motivation was
really the attitude to immigrants in Europe generally and in particular, in
Britain. In the last election that--both parties, Labor Party and the
Conservative Party were both very hostile to refugees or economic migrants.
In fact, economic migrant became a term of abuse, that clearly they shouldn't
And generally in Europe, you know, there's this idea of `fortress Europe,' of
`Let's keep out the people from outside Europe; let's try and protect European
culture from outside influences.'
BOGAEV: I'd like to talk about this research trip that you and your
screenwriter Tony Grisoni took to trace the route that the film follows from
Peshawar to Istanbul, and on to London.
Your departure was planned for September 12, 2001, originally. So on
September 11th, what was your conversation with Tony Grisoni like?
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: Well, I think, you know, we'd already decided by that stage
that we would focus on Afghan refugees and we would start in Peshawar. And
then, obviously, September 11th happened and initially I think, you know,
first of all, Tony was a little bit worried it wasn't safe. And then we
obviously had the kind of perhaps more serious worry about: Would what was
happening in Afghanistan cloud the issue about refugees and somehow become a
distraction to the film?
But obviously, you know, the other facts about the bombing campaign in
Afghanistan, that followed September 11th was that it created a whole new wave
of refugees. So when we arrived in Peshawar, you know, we didn't know kind of
what reception we would get, and what we found was that everyone there,
whether Afghan or Pakistani--everyone there was against the bombing campaign
in Afghanistan. Everyone was against kind of Western policy. Most of the
people there were supporters of the Taliban, because really Peshawar and that
part of Pakistan was the home of the Taliban and where the Taliban had kind of
In fact, we went to the madrassa where Mullah Omar had been educated and
talked to the guy who ran it, who was explaining that there were no students
at the madrassa at the time because they were all in Afghanistan, fighting on
the side of the Taliban.
And yet, despite the fact that politically everyone was very hostile, at a
personal level everyone was incredibly hospitable, and we found that there
were no problems being there, there were no problems working with Pakistani
people or Afghan people and that everyone was incredibly friendly.
BOGAEV: While you were traveling along this route, did people think you were
spies, the British Foreign Service?
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: I don't think so. I don't think we looked much like spies,
to be honest. I mean, on the first trip, Tony and I were by ourselves and we
were traveling with just a little video camera, but traveling as tourists.
And, really, the kind of only problem we had--we were traveling across the
desert in Pakistan, towards the Iranian border, and we were in the back of the
pickup truck. And we got to an army checkpoint and we were stopped, and the
soldiers in charge of the checkpoint kind of kept sort of looking in Tony's
bag and trying to find different things. And we didn't know what was going
on. We were there for a couple of hours, and then about five armored
personnel carriers turned up with about another 40 soldiers.
And we had no idea whether we were being arrested or what. And he kept sort
of looking at little gadgets that Tony had. And so then I told Tony to give
him a gadget; you know, it didn't matter what it was, just give him something.
And so Tony gave it to him, and then suddenly he was very pleased and happy,
and we were then escorted by these soldiers for about the next sort of hour
and a half across the desert. And then we got to the next checkpoint and
suddenly they let us go. And we never knew what that was about and what it
was for. It was simply one of those kind of bizarre experiences that happen
when you're in a different culture. So we then included that kind of incident
within the film and had the same sort of thing happen to Enayatullah and Jamal
in the film.
BOGAEV: I'd like to talk about the making of this film because it's
interesting in the way that it's a feature film but it has the feel of a
documentary. There's an occasional voiceover that sounds like the BBC, there
are cutaways to maps and titles for the locations, the cities that the boys
travel through. Why did you use those documentary trappings? And you end up
with a kind of hybrid, an interesting hybrid of fact and fiction.
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: I think really the approach then was to try and make the
film as simply as possible, to try and make the film simply a record of the
journey, the journey that Enayatullah and Jamal are making. And any
information we gave in the voiceovers were used simply to give as briefly and
as simply as possible the kind of background of the story: where they are,
the context of the camp, who's in the camp and so on.
So really, you know, the film is a fiction in the sense that we organized the
journey for Jamal and Enayatullah. We looked for two people to make that
journey; they weren't making that journey anyway. And various incidents along
the way were organized by us, but it's also, in a sense, a record of the
journey they made. Jamal and Enayatullah are not speaking lines of dialogue,
they're not pretending to be a character in any sense; they're simply reacting
to events around them. So in some ways the film--you know, the idea was to
make the film as simply as possible so we could record that journey. And in a
lot of ways, you know, most days we sort of said, `OK, get in the back of the
pickup truck, we're going to drive to'--wherever the next town was, and we
simply recorded what happened along the way.
Of course, there were some incidents which were more organized than that
because, you know, for instance, when they get in the container ship to go to
BOGAEV: You're talking about a scene in the film in which the boys and a
number of other refugees are in a freight container and they travel from
Turkey to Italy.
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: Yes.
BOGAEV: They become afraid they're not getting enough oxygen; it's a scary
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: Yeah. I mean, there were two reasons we wanted to use
that sequence. One was that one of the stories that really made me want to
make the film was that there was a container that arrived at Dover in England,
where, I think it was 48 Chinese immigrants on it, and 46 or them were dead.
I mean, two of them survived. And that obviously, you know, because of the
nature of that tragedy generated a lot of interest and publicity about the
sort of journeys people make.
But also, you know, when we were filming in Italy, with Jamal and Enayatullah,
that particular month I think there were something like 3,000 immigrants
landed on the Italian coastline from Albania or Turkey. And there was an
Italian minister at the time, Umberto Bossi, who was the leader of the
Northern League, who said basically it was the Italian navy's duty to sink any
ship that was arriving with refugees. And that, you know, so I wanted to--you
know, these things, all these kind of events in the film were kind of inspired
by kind of real stories. In fact, most of the things in the film are far less
kind of extreme or dramatic then a lot of the stories that get reported.
BOGAEV: For the frightening moments in the film--the freight container scene
and also a scene in which the boys and their guides, their smugglers, are shot
at by a patrol during a blizzard as they are crossing the Kurdish mountains
from Iran into Turkey--the filming is as if in a nightmare. It's very
evocative, it's blurry; it's as if one of them just happened to have a camera
and had it on the whole time. It seems just a blur of fear and smothering and
stealth. How did you decide to film this part of the story?
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: Well, basically the filming was always the same, which was
to film it as simply as possible. We had one small camera, a PD 150. It's
like the size of a normal kind of, you know, domestic camera. We put radio
mikes on the actors so that there were no microphones visible. And on set
there was simply a cameraman and the sound recordist and myself. So the idea
was like really to have the minimum amount of equipment and the minimum
technical process coming between us and the story. So, you know, when it was
dark we simply shot with whatever light was available.
So in the case of, you know, crossing the mountains, from the very beginning
we knew that obviously if you were smuggling across the mountain you wouldn't
have big torches with you lighting the way. And obviously up the mountain
there is no light apart from whatever light came from the stars. So we shot
on a tiny camera with night vision and simply, you know, recorded--you know,
we told them to hike up the mountain and hike back down again and we walked
with them and filmed it happening. And that was really the approach. The
filming was very, very simple, you know, and hopefully, you know, it works in
terms of atmosphere and so on, because gradually, bit by bit, you got to know
those people. You're traveling on that journey with them and therefore you
are sort of hoping they survive and hoping they succeed and you're with them
in that journey.
And obviously, you know, one of the most frightening things is to not know
what's happening. I mean, the experience, obviously, of refugees is they never
really know what's happening. They're simply told to do things and they have
to hope that those things are going to work out for them.
BOGAEV: Now you cast non-actors that you found in Peshawar for the film, the
two boys and the other actors in the film. How did you find them? How do you
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: Well, with the two main characters, there were one million
refugees so the problem was like how to select two out of a million. And it
really was a bit potluck. We knew we wanted two young males because they are
the people who, on the whole, make this journey. And we simply kind of went
to the camps, went to the markets where Afghan people work and so on. And I
think our casting director went out and recruited maybe like 200 people. And
then I met them and, you know, we talked to them and we played games and so
on. But it was really a bit potluck. We were looking for people who we
thought would survive the journey. We were looking for people who we thought
would get on with each other and would get on with us. And we were looking
for people who would want to go back because we didn't want to make this film
as a kind of lottery of, like, these two people you get to be refugees in
Britain. We want it to be a job where people would perhaps hopefully find it
interesting and enjoyable and also make some money. And so those are the
BOGAEV: My guest is filmmaker Michael Winterbottom. His new film is "In This
World." We'll be back after this break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
BOGAEV: Let's continue our interview with filmmaker Michael Winterbottom.
His new film is "In This World." It follows the journey of two Afghani
refugees as they try to get from Pakistan to London. In this scene from the
film, one of the boys, Jamal, is in a refugee camp in France. A fellow
refugee is trying to befriend him.
(Soundbite of scene from "In This World")
Unidentified Man #1: Any cigarettes? You smoke cigarettes?
Unidentified Man #2: No. No,
Unidentified Man #1: Come sit.
Unidentified Man #2: Why?
Unidentified Man #1: I want to talk to you.
Unidentified Man #2: Why?
Unidentified Man #1: How old are you?
Unidentified Man #2: Me?
Unidentified Man #1: Yes. How old are you?
Unidentified Man #2: I'm 16.
Unidentified Man #1: You're 16.
Unidentified Man #2: Yeah.
Unidentified Man #1: All by yourself?
Unidentified Man #2: Me? Yeah.
BOGAEV: Now you shot the film in Pakistan, Iran and Turkey only, really not
very long after September 11th. What kind of hoops did you have to go through
and what kind of complications came up filming under such politically
sensitive and dangerous circumstances? And I couldn't help but think, your
insurance must have been through the roof. Right?
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: (Sigh) Yeah, I mean, the insurance was the biggest cost in
the whole film, and we had to have, like, insurance about, you know, being
flown out to the situations and kidnapping insurance and all this sort of
nonsense. But, you know, the first thing was, we said--OK, we didn't tell
them what we were filming. We told them we were filming a documentary about
the ancient silk routes and we were following that route to show the way in
which that differed from the present day. Even so, in Turkey, they refused to
allow us to film there. So in Turkey we had to pretend to be tourists and we
all went in one by one and then gradually met up again afterwards.
In Pakistan, we said we were doing this kind of semi-documentary filming about
the silk routes. Even so, we were delayed for about a week. It was at the
time when Daniel Pearl had been kidnapped and they suggested that that was the
reason why they weren't allowing us in, that it was for our security. But it
was never really clear, you know, what the motive was. So we finally got in
there. But, you know, the hardest...
BOGAEV: So all of these complications involved visas.
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: Yeah, absolutely. And the hardest thing, obviously, by
far was getting visas for the two refugees. You know, Jamal and Enayatullah
are genuine refugees. They have no papers. They have no paperwork. And, you
know, initially the British Embassy was like, `There's no way we can give
these two people visas. We don't want them in our country.' And eventually
we sort of bombarded them with letters from Britain and all sorts of stuff and
eventually, after months, they said yes.
The Pakistan government said they wouldn't give them a visa to come back. And
that was really the biggest complication because, as refugees, you know,
there's no particular reason why Pakistan should let them back once they're in
Britain. On the other hand, you know, Jamal had been born in a refugee camp
and never been outside Pakistan; Enayatullah had been there since he was 10 or
11. So this was their home and we had to find a way of getting them back.
And that was really the biggest complication. And that was the complication
all along. Each time we crossed the border there was some issue about `These
people are out from Afghanistan, therefore they shouldn't be in our country
therefore their papers must be illegal.' And theref...
BOGAEV: How did you solve that catch-22?
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: It was complicated. I mean, we sort of thought about it a
lot and in the end we decided the best thing was to try and get their papers
to be as legitimate as possible. Now that actually involved smuggling them
from Pakistan into Afghanistan and taking them up to Kabul and got them a
passport. Anyway, we managed it. We smuggled them back into Pakistan. So at
that stage we had a passport and we used that passport. And eventually after
a lot of struggle we got the visa to England on the basis of that.
But, as I said, we couldn't get the visa from the Pakistan government to allow
them back in, a sort of re-entry visa to Pakistan, and we were stuck. I mean,
we'd, like, been to do some filming and we really had like a week where we
were hanging around and didn't know what to do. And eventually we asked our
Pakistan fixer, who also played the fixer in the film, the people-smuggler in
the film--we asked him to just get us a visa. We didn't care how he got it,
just get us a visa. And so a couple of days later he turned up and there were
now visas in the passports. We said, `Great, we can set off.' And we
traveled across, filming through the sort of deserts north of Pakistan, and
arrived at Taftan, which is the border between Pakistan and Iran.
We were getting a lot of hassle from the military intelligence guy who kept
saying we weren't allowed to film because it was the border and we're not
allowed to film near the border. And we had all these hassles the whole time.
We kept trying to sneak off and film and, you know, do decoys so he'd follow
us and ...(unintelligible) we'd film ourselves and so on. And the day before
we were due to cross into Iran, our fixer said he had to leave because he
didn't want to get into trouble and he didn't want to be there when we crossed
the border. So, we're like, `OK, well, that seems fair enough,' so he left.
And then the next morning we arrived at the border, and as soon as we got
there the military intelligence guy was there and he straightaway went to
Jamal and Enayatullah and opened their passports, looked for their visas and
said they were false.
It turned out that our fixer had actually told him they were false visas. And
we were like, `Oh, God, you know, we're completely stuffed now. We won't be
able to get them out of the country. This is the end of it.' But it turned
out, you know, after sort of an hour or so in negotiations, that what was
required was some cash, and so we paid some cash and we got across the border.
BOGAEV: Was that the only time cash was required?
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: Yeah, that was, actually. I mean, you know, Iran was
actually the easiest country we had to film in. The permissions were the
easiest. We had a lot of cooperation and, for instance, there's a scene in
Iran where there's a checkpoint and a soldier gets on the bus and searches the
bus and finds that Jamal and Enayatullah are refugees and takes them off. And
all that, you know, was--we were arriving at a real checkpoint and our fixer
went up to ask them if it was all right to film there, and the commander of
the checkpoint said, `Yes, it's fine as long as I can be the soldier who gets
on the bus.' And so he then did it all...
BOGAEV: (Laughing) He wanted to be in the film.
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: Yeah, and he did it all for real and, you know, it was
fine. It was really simple to film and he did it really well. And at the end
of the sequence he was driving Enayatullah and Jamal off into the desert as
though he was like taking them back to the border. And he drove them off in
his vehicle with this huge, great gun on the back into this creek. And when
he came back he said that actually when he got into the creek there was a
whole bunch of Afghan refugees really hiding there. And, you know, normally
he would arrest them but as he'd been filming with us that day he let them
BOGAEV: Now after you finished the film, Jamal went back to Pakistan, and
then he traveled back to the UK and he claimed asylum. And we're not talking
about the film anymore, this was his real life. How did he get there and did
you have any role in that? Did you even know?
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: No, not at all. I mean, basically we'd finished filming
and Jamal had gone home and about two months later we got a phone call and he
was already in Britain and he was already claiming asylum, and we didn't know
how he'd traveled there at all. And I think, you know--I don't think he came
the way that he came in the film, but I think whatever route you take, if
you're 15 years old, which I think is what Jamal was at that time, if you're
leaving everything you know behind, you're leaving the country you're born,
all the family you have there, all the friends you have there, you're leaving
your culture behind--you know, and taking that chance, you know, for the
possibility of having a better life, for the possibility of a better future,
then obviously this is an incredibly brave thing to do and something which
emotionally is very complicated.
So, you know, from our point of view, you know, yeah, we were kind of really
surprised and obviously hope that it works out for Jamal and hope that he's
happy. But, you know, these things are not easy. It's not clearly the case
that it's better to be in London then it is to be in Pakistan. And...
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: ...his application for asylum was refused, in fact. You
know, he hasn't been categorized as a refugee. He's had his application
refused, but because he's a minor he's allowed to stay in Britain till he's
18 and then he'll be sent back or he could appeal and try to win an appeal.
BOGAEV: What's he doing to make a living?
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: He's at school so, you know, he's been put into a foster
family in London and he's at school. You know, I think--you know, and he
seems happy, you know. We see him quite often and he seems kind of happy and
so on, but clearly for someone of that age to have made such a big, you know,
transition, you know, it's very, very hard. And when we were originally doing
the filming, Jamal started off being very self-confident and cocky, and he's
very bright and clever. But as we got further and further away from Pakistan
and the kind of culture he recognized, you know, it seemed like he was finding
it harder and harder and sort of seemed quite sort of--you know, we were quite
worried at the time that, you know, whether he was OK and whether he was
surviving it and enjoying it or not. So it was quite strange, you know, to
sort of see him back again, having been worried about whether he was OK for a
few weeks, to see him having made that journey back and doing it on a basis
where, you know, he never knows really whether he'll get back or not.
BOGAEV: I can't help thinking that Jamal could not have been very
sophisticated and known exactly what he was getting into when he started with
this film and this journey, and also that he must have had some hopes or
gotten the hope or the desire or the vision to emigrate once he got caught up
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: I think that's a complicated question. I mean, I think
one thing that I became aware of making the film is that if he goes to a place
like Peshawar, people there are much more aware of our culture, much more
aware of us then we are of them. I think one of the problems in the world are
people in the rich countries, people in the developed countries try and ignore
what's going on in the rest of the world because we don't like to think about
it. But it's--people in developing countries do have access to a lot of, you
know, material about us and are more interested. So, you know, you get to
Pakistan, and lot of people are speaking English in Pakistan because through
the cultural kind of connections. But there's also--you know, cable's
available or satellite's available, so people see--you know, it's possible to
see TV programs from America or Europe. There's, you know, mobile phones
about so you can be in contact; there's the Internet, so you can get
information from the Internet.
You know, Peshawar is not in a different world from ours, it's in the same
world as ours, and people like Jamal--you know, Jamal's a very bright kid.
You know, he spoke about four different languages, has, you know, in a lot of
ways, probably a much more sophisticated, mature version of the world than a
child the same age would have in America or Britain. And I don't know really
what was going on in Jamal's head, and I don't know whether when he came to
England he was inspired to come back or whether when he got back to Peshawar
as a refugee there were other factors that forced him to think he should come
back. But, certainly, I think it's wrong to think that the version of the
world that refugees have is somehow less sophisticated than the version of the
world that we have.
BOGAEV: Filmmaker Michael Winterbottom. We'll continue our conversation in
the second half of the show. I'm Barbara Bogaev and this is FRESH AIR.
BOGAEV: Coming up, "Monster of God": Science writer David Quammen on
man-eating predators and the challenges of preserving their habitat. It's the
subject of his new book. And we continue our conversation with director
Michael Winterbottom about his film "24 Hour Party People."
(Soundbite of music)
BOGAEV: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev. Let's get back to our
interview with director and screenwriter Michael Winterbottom. His new film,
"In This World," is about two refugees as they flee Pakistan for London.
Winterbottom's other movies include "Welcome To Sarajevo," "Wonderland" and
"24 Hour Party People."
I wanted to talk about "24 Hour Party People." It's about the 1980s' rave
music and club scene in Manchester, and it's told through the eyes of Tony
Wilson, who was founder of Factory Records. He was a real raconteur, a kind
of big TV personality. Did you watch him on television?
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: I did. I grew up near to Manchester, so as a child I'd
see Tony Wilson doing, you know, crazy sort of local news stunts, like hang
gliding down mountains or, you know, talking to dogs or whatever. He did a
lot of sort of novelty items on the local TV news. And it was very kind of
weird because you're realizing that he's also the same person who was running
Factory Records. They had a lot of great bands signed to them. And then
(unintelligible) the Hacienda Club there's this kind of very strange, double
life of sort of the daytime naff(ph) TV celebrity and the nighttime kind of
music business guy. And that was kind of, really, what drew me to the idea of
making the film. And obviously it was great to me--from "Batman." It was
great to see that. I kind of grew up with it. There was also, you know, kind
of great to me ...(unintelligible) from that music. It's great music. And
the film goes from '76 and punk music all the way through to '92. So I had a
big range of fantastic music then.
BOGAEV: Was that a music scene you were personally immersed in?
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: I mean, I think, you know, I was around, you know, sort
of--punk was like the first music, as a sort of teen-ager, that was like a new
wave of music for me. And that certainly, kind of, was the music I loved.
And, in fact, Factory Records came after punk. Factory's very much inspired
by punk. Their kind of approach to music was the same as punk, which is,
basically, they let you--it was like anyone should be allowed to do whatever
they want to do. You know, the record companies shouldn't tell artists what
to do. Artists should be free to do what we want. And if you want to walk
away, they can do. So it's this kind of incredibly chaotic attitude born out
of a kind of desire to sort of be free and anarchic. And that was the sort of
spirit that made it sort of really attractive to make.
And, you know, for all their ups and downs, what I liked about it was that,
you know, even though Factory went bankrupt and everything was lost, that
sense that they didn't really care, you know--that in the film and, I think,
to some extent in reality, you know, Tony Wilson is like--you know, he doesn't
care about whether he makes money or not. He doesn't care about the ups and
downs. Still, he's optimistic. He still believes that, you know, there'll be
the next wave coming and he'll be riding it. And so I like that sense of a
kind of hero who learns nothing but remains kind of defiantly optimistic.
BOGAEV: Well, Steve Coogan--he's a British comedian and actor, and he plays
the role of Tony Wilson, who narrates the film and also talks directly to the
camera. And Coogan has great facility with language in this part. Let's play
a clip from the film. Here's Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson.
(Soundbite of "24 Hour Party People" with orchestra music)
Mr. STEVE COOGAN: (As Tony Wilson) The history of popular music is like a
double helix, OK? That's two waves that intertwine. So when one wave goes
like this, the other one goes like that. So you've got two waves doing that,
OK? All right, one like that and one like that. Basically, one musical
movement's in the descendent, another one is in the ascendant. Right now
we're becoming a crisscross kind of hiatus. But the two guys that are going
to be on the crest of the next wave are Paul and Shaun Ryder. This is a true
incident. A bit like the hang gliding, just remember it's on two levels.
This takes place in 1980 when Shaun and Paul put rat poison into some bread
and fed it to 3,000 pigeons.
(Soundbite of music, birds; dogs barking)
Unidentified Actor: Whoa. Down! Oh! Ahh.
Mr. COOGAN: Obviously it's a reconstruction. No pigeons were harmed in the
making of this film, although there are those that say they're pests, rats
BOGAEV: Steve Coogan is the TV personality and record producer Tony Wilson in
the film "24 Hour Party People."
What was it like to work with Coogan, and did he improvise a lot in that part?
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: It was brilliant working with Steve. I mean, you know, I
think it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had. But when we
first had the idea to make the film, it was already--like, the very first
conversation we had about it was already that `And Steve Coogan must play Tony
Wilson.' And from the very beginning it was like, `If Steve doesn't play it, I
don't really want to do it,' because, you know, Steve, like Tony's, from
Manchester, has a very similar kind of relationship to Manchester because
Manchester's a relatively small city, and both of them are quite famous
within that city. But in mentioning you're famous, you don't get a lot of
praise; you get a lot of attacks and abuse and slugging off, sort of.
And so they were both kind of used to that idea, and, you know, they both kind
of grew up in the same sort of Catholic sentiment, you know, the same sort of
schools. And I really felt that Steve would understand and be able to kind of
make the character of Tony Wilson work. And so it is fantastic. And, you
know, there was a script, and we worked on the script with Steve. Frank
Cottrell Boyce wrote the script, right, and it was a brilliant script.
BOGAEV: Well, there's a great scene of Tony Wilson's wife having sex with
someone in the bathroom of the dance club. She's getting back at him for his
sleeping around. And the whole scene seems just wonderfully comedic and out
of control. Was filming it like that?
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: Well, I mean, when we started off researching the film, we
sort of, first of all, talked to Tony and then lots of other people, and
everyone had anecdotes about what was happening. And, basically, all the
anecdotes were about how crazy and stupid everything was. Basically, everyone
did, you know, the stuff that made no sense at all, but they did it for the
best of reasons. And so we wanted to celebrate all that. And, obviously,
because we're using real music, we were also--you know, all the characters are
from the real people, so we then had to try and get their permission and often
get their permission to show them, you know, being incredibly stupid.
So we sent the script to everyone, and, you know, in the case of that
particular sequence of the film, in the original script that Frank wrote, he
had Tony's ex-wife sleeping with Vini Reilly. And so we met up with Lindsay,
and she said, `Actually it wasn't Vini Reilly. I never slept with Vini
Reilly. It was Howard DeVoto.' So we said, `OK.' And Frank changed the
scene to sleeping with Howard DeVoto. And then we sent the script to Howard
DeVoto, and Howard DeVoto had a couple of changes he wanted to make about
Buzzcocks. He was like the original member of The Buzzcocks. But then he
also said--you know, we said to him, `It'd be great if you came down to the
set. It'd be great if you were in the film.' And Howard DeVoto kind of wrote
back and said, you know, he'd love to be in the film, and what he would like
to be is a toilet attendant when Lindsay is actually having sex with the
fictional Howard DeVoto in the film, and he would like to sort of say that he
didn't really remember it happening like that. So we thought that was good.
That was in the spirit of the film.
So we shot the sequence with--Shirley played Lindsay, you know, having sex
with the Howard DeVoto character in the toilets. And then we sort of panned
away and saw Howard cleaning the sinks, and Howard turns to the camera and
says, you know, `I don't remember it happening like this.' And so we thought
that was good. It was made clear it wasn't exactly true, but it was sort of
true. And then when we had the rough cut of the film, we showed the film to
Lindsay. And, of course, you know, Lindsay being Tony's ex-wife was not
fantastically happy about the project from the word go. You know, she was
like--you know, she didn't really want to be party to a film celebrating Tony
because she had a lot of bad thoughts about him. But she seems...
BOGAEV: It's getting very, very complicated.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: Anyway, Lindsay saw this sequence of the film, and she said
she didn't want that scene to be in the film because, for a start, she didn't
have sex in the toilet. She was in a hotel bedroom somewhere. And, secondly,
Howard DeVoto dressed up as a toilet attendant looked really stupid, and she
didn't want people thinking that she'd had sex with someone who looked that
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: So we then had to do another voice-over kind of saying
again actually, you know--I can't remember what it said but it was some
disclaimer pointing out, again, that it wasn't really true. And so eventually
we managed to get her to agree. But for a long time she was going to sue us
for that scene. So, you know, the film was great fun to make, but it was also
complicated because you are dealing with real people's lives. And people, you
know, are dealing with versions of their lives that were not necessarily,
strictly speaking, true but were perhaps truth in the spirit of what had
happened. So obviously...
BOGAEV: Complicated just making the movie, but imagine what it was like to
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: Yeah, exactly, exactly. But on the other hand, although
it was ki--we also had a lot of fun making the movie. And I think all the
actors in the film had a great time pretending to be in bands, and I think
everyone who was acting in the film, by the end of it, decided it would be
much more fun to be in a band than it would be to be an actor.
BOGAEV: This film seems so different from many of your other films about more
political issues. But, really, your films are all very different from each
other. Does that just happen as you follow your interests, or are you
conscious to follow different threads, very different passions?
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: From my point of view, making a film--obviously once
you've made one type of film, say, that's a, you know, period film based on a
book--I mean, a film called "Judith" based on a Thomas Hardy novel--the idea
of then making another film based on that Victorian novel is very boring.
There's more interest in finding something else which seems fresh and new. So
there isn't really any conscious plan of, like, `Let's do something
different.' But I just think naturally it's like it's more interesting to
work in a new area and to try and find something which seems to pose new
BOGAEV: Well, Michael Winterbottom, thank you so much for talking today. I
really enjoyed it.
Mr. WINTERBOTTOM: Thank you.
BOGAEV: Michael Winterbottom's new film is "In This World."
Coming up, preserving man-eating predators. This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: David Quammen on destruction and extinction of alpha
predators as told in his new book "Monster of God"
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:
Lions, tigers and bears have been the stars of fairy tales and the stuff of
our nightmares, large, fierce predators who inhabit the top of the food chain
right alongside us. Naturalist and science writer David Quammen makes the
case in his new book, "Monster of God," that these alpha predators are likely
to become extinct in the next 150 years or so and that their passing is a
devastating loss to our ecosystem and our identity as large predators
ourselves. Quammen is the author of nine previous books of fiction and
non-fiction, including "The Song of the Dodo" and "Natural Acts." He's a
former columnist for Outside magazine.
For his new book he visited conservation programs and sanctuaries from Wyoming
to India to Siberia, observing along the way Komodo dragons, Romanian brown
bears, giant snakes and saltwater crocodiles.
Before we talk about some of the conservation programs that you investigated
for the book, I want to ask what might be an incredibly obvious question with
a very obvious answer: Why are large predators rare? Is it because they're
so big and prized and feared that we've hunted them to near extinction?
Mr. DAVID QUAMMEN (Author, "Monster of God"): They're rare for a couple of
reasons. Big predators are inherently rare because they live spaced apart on
the landscape, spaced apart by their own hunger and ferocity. They're rare
because they sit atop a food chain, and the species that are at the top of a
food chain are always less abundant than the species that they feed on. They
reproduce more slowly. There is less energy that filters up through the food
chain to support them. So big predators are always inherently rare, but
nowadays on this planet they're more rare than ever because they have been
among the first to be exterminated over large parts of the planet.
BOGAEV: What's an example of a conservation program then that works? And I'm
thinking of the situation in Australia, and the conservation program is aimed
to preserve habitat for a species of saltwater crocodile. It's in Cockatoo
National Park in the north of the country.
Mr. QUAMMEN: The saltwater crocodile in Australia is an extraordinary success
story. It was much depleted, almost exterminated, during the 1940s and '50s
after the Second World War because people came in with motorboats, battery
beams and high-powered rifles to hunt for saltwater crocodiles at night.
The reason they hunted for them is because the saltwater crocodile has the
most valuable skin of any crocodilian for leather products. Its belly skin is
smooth, soft and tans particularly well for high-end leather products like
Gucci purses, things like that. So during a short period of years in the '40s
and '50s, something like 89,000 crocodile skins were exported from the
Northern Territory of Australia. By the 1960s they were very rare, and then
the various state governments and the government of Australia put limitations,
first did a complete ban and later restrictions on exports on the harvest of
Because saltwater crocodiles reproduce fairly quickly, they laid large litters
of eggs, and because the habitat had been preserved, they bounced back
extremely well, and now there are something on the order of 75,000 adult
saltwater crocodiles just in the Northern Territory of Australia. That means
that the saltwater crocodile is certainly one of the most abundant of the big
predators, of the alpha predators on the planet. Seventy-five thousand is far
beyond what you'd find for any of the big cats or even probably the brown
bear. So it has been a success. And one of the reasons it's been a success
is because they have given some economic incentive to preservation of habitat
by allowing people, again, now, to harvest saltwater crocodiles for their
BOGAEV: You also describe a not-so-successful program in India to protect the
same species of crocodile as the ones in Australia. Why is this program
foundering when the same one works in Australia? And I think it's an example
of how complicated this preservation endeavor is, especially since it's
involving indigenous peoples.
Mr. QUAMMEN: It is complicated. And it's further complicated by the
heartbreaking realities of millions of poor people trying to survive on the
landscape. That's the big difference between eastern India, where the
saltwater crocodile was once widespread, and northern Australia, where the
saltwater crocodile is still widespread and abundant. In eastern India, the
areas of habitat are heavily settled and under increasing pressure by very
poor people who are building dikes. Well, one particular place that I visited
was the Brahmani-Baitarani river delta in the state of Orissa, eastern India,
in an area particularly called the Bhitarkanika National Park and
surroundings. There are millions of poor people living along the lowland
banks of these mangrovy delta areas and there are also saltwater crocodiles
that have begun to recover since being reintroduced by the Indian government
in the 1970s.
Now the saltwater crocodiles are beginning to thrive again in this area.
They're coming out of the river, they're going into fish ponds kept by the
poor local people. They're occasionally killing a dog, a small girl, an adult
man. And I visited a couple of villages in this area and talked with people
about their feelings toward the saltwater crocodile. And they are just
agonized by the fact that this dangerous beast, which at one point was
exterminated, has been brought back, restored, to their ecosystem and they're
living too close to it, in too much vulnerable intimacy to appreciate it the
way we can appreciate it from a distance. So that was a case of a very
well-meaning reintroduction program for a threatened species that didn't take
account of the local people, their needs, their fears, their financial
concerns, their cultural traditions, and the saltwater crocodile is continuing
to plague them, even now.
BOGAEV: David Quammen is my guest. He's a science writer and naturalist.
He's the author of nine works of fiction and non-fiction, including "The Song
of the Dodo" and "Natural Acts." His new book is "Monster of God: The
Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind."
David, we're going to take a short break. And then we'll talk some more.
This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
BOGAEV: Back with science writer David Quammen. His new book is about large
predators and efforts to preserve them. It's called "Monster of God."
Let's talk about bears. One person who had a special fondness for trophy
predators, especially bears, was Nicolai Ceausescu, the dictator who brutally
ruled Romania for two decades. How did Ceausescu come onto your radar when
you were researching this book?
Mr. QUAMMEN: The case of Romania and Ceausescu is really peculiar. I got
interested in it when I read somewhere that there were 5,000 brown bears
surviving in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. Brown bear is ursus arctos.
That's the same species as the grizzly bear in the Western US. It exists
across northern Asia, northern Europe, into North America. But you wouldn't
think of 5,000 brown bears being able to survive in Romania, which most people
would envision as a blighted industrialized Eastern European former Communist
So I started going to Romania. I've made a number of trips there. And
I--simply looking for an answer to the question, `Why are there still 5,000
brown bears in Romania?' The answer to that is, again, complicated but it has
a lot to do with the fact that Nicolai Ceausescu ruled for 25 years and he
came to consider himself not only the grande(ph) chief, the dictator, the
political commander in chief, but also the hunter in chief of Romanian
forests. And he took a fancy to bear hunting and so for most of 25 years he
hunted far more bears than any single individual should but he allowed almost
no one else to kill any of them. Consequently, the bear population rose not
just to 5,000 but to almost 8,000 bears at--toward the end of Ceausescu's
rule. Essentially the Romanian Forest Department was farming bears with
supplemental food for Ceausescu to kill.
BOGAEV: Well, you've talked to a number of people who worked in the system
and pretty much said as much. They would feed a bear so that it would become
enormous so that Ceausescu could claim this trophy.
Mr. QUAMMEN: I did. I traveled around and talked to a lot of gamekeepers
and wildlife managers for the Romanian Forest Department and these fellows had
tales to tell about the hunts that they had managed for Ceausescu, about the
way--bears that they had grown, essentially Romanian forest in the Carpathian
Mountains is divided up into a number of hunting units, 2,200 hunting units.
Most of those have bear populations in them. Each of them has at least one
gamekeeper whose job it is to care for, nurture and know about two dozen
individual bears that live in his hunting area. He gives them rotten apples,
he gives them plums in the fall, he gives them a synthesized bear chow. He
occasionally hangs up the carcass of a horse from an abattoir. He feeds these
bears and bulks them up for trophy hunting purposes. And during the years of
Ceausescu's reign, the only person who had access to those hunting
opportunities was him, with some marginal bit of sharing with the other high
muck-a-mucks in the Communist Party and occasionally a visitor like Moammar
BOGAEV: I'm thinking that you draw another conclusion from the case study of
bears in Romania and also the case of lions in India and crocodiles in
Australia and it has to do with colonialism, that exterminating large predator
species was one more way that colonial powers exert their dominance and their
power over subjugated nations. It's really part of the colonial process.
Mr. QUAMMEN: Yes.
BOGAEV: Part of the human process, right? We're colonizing the Earth.
Mr. QUAMMEN: It is. But particularly part of the colonial enterprise and
the political census is very interesting. It's true of Australia when white
people invaded Australia and began taking the land and subjugating the
Aboriginal people. Part of the enterprise was also exterminating the big,
dangerous predators. If you want to subjugate a native people, one of the
steps is to kill off their familiar local monsters. It happened in Australia
for commercial reasons, in terms of the harvest of skins. It happened in
India during the British Raj. British officers took an enormous toll on the
lions and also on the tigers of India. It happened elsewhere. It happened in
the Western US. I mean, part of the, quote, unquote, settling of the northern
Rockies, for instance, by white people and the subjugation of the Native
Americans there involved the, essentially, extermination of the grizzly bear
and the wolf.
This is one of the things that has interested me most about the whole subject
of big predators. It's the question of who pays the cost and who reaps the
benefits. Big predators are dangerous, inconvenient and expensive, especially
so to the local people, the native people, the indigenous people who share
landscape with them, like the Muldaris(ph) in the Gear Forest(ph), like the
Aboriginal people in northern Australia, sharing their rivers and their
beaches with the saltwater crocodile, like the shepherds in the mountains of
Romania that I talked to. There are cases across the planet. This is what
was particularly interesting to me. I wanted to know what's it like for the
people who actually live surrounded by big predators. What does the state of
constant jeopardy feel like to them? And is there any way that society can
arrange things such that it's not the poor local people who pay the cost of
big predators and the distant nature-loving people in cities across oceans who
enjoy the benefits of knowing that big predators still exist on the planet.
BOGAEV: I'm curious if after writing about large predators--you've done so
much thinking about the psychological, the gigantic psychological meaning that
these creatures hold for human beings. What does it mean to us not to have
all the predators living side by side with us in some capacity anymore?
Mr. QUAMMEN: Well, the--I think the most important service they have
performed in--not in ecological but in psychological, in spiritual terms, for
us, is that they have reminded us throughout human history that we don't sit
atop the food chain of power and glory or the literal food chain of who eats
whom. They have reminded us by occasionally preying on us that we, homo
sapiens, aren't apart from nature, we're not distinct from nature, we're not
above nature. We're part of nature. We're within nature. They've reminded
us that we're just another flavor of meat.
BOGAEV: Well, David Quammens, thank you very much for talking with me today.
Mr. QUAMMENS: Thank you, Barbara. It's been a pleasure.
BOGAEV: David Quammens' new book is "Monster of God."
(Soundbite of "The Wizard of Oz")
Ms. JUDY GARLAND: (As Dorothy) Do you suppose we'll meet any wild animals?
Mr. JACK HALEY: (As Tin Man) We might.
Mr. RAY BOLGER: (As Scarecrow) Animals that eat straw?
Mr. HALEY: Some, but mostly lions and tigers and bears.
Ms. GARLAND: Lions?
Mr. BOLGER: And tigers?
Mr. HALEY: And bears.
Ms. GARLAND: (Gasps) Lions and tigers and bears--oh, my!
Ms. GARLAND, Mr. BOLGER and Mr. HALEY: (In unison) Lions and tigers and
Ms. GARLAND: Oh, my!
Ms. GARLAND, Mr. BOLGER and Mr. HALEY: (In unison) Lions and tigers and
Ms. GARLAND: Oh, my!
Ms. GARLAND, Mr. BOLGER and Mr. HALEY: (In unison) Lions and tigers and
Ms. GARLAND: Oh, my!
Ms. GARLAND, Mr. BOLGER and Mr. HALEY: (In unison) Lions and tigers and
Ms. GARLAND: Oh, my!
Mr. BERT LAHR: (As Cowardly Lion) Boo! (Roars) Ooh! Ooh! Put 'em up, put
'em up! Which one of you first? I'll fight you both together if you want.
I'll fight you with one paw tied behind my back! I'll fight you standin' on
BOGAEV: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr from the
soundtrack of "The Wizard of Oz."
BOGAEV: For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.
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