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Taking on Capitalism, U.S. Torture & Dictatorships, Costa-Gavras on Decades of Political Filmmaking

StoryOctober 09, 2013
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Costa-Gavras joins us for the hour to discuss a nearly 50-year career that has earned him the reputation as one of the world’s greatest living political filmmakers. Born in Greece in 1933, the 80-year-old has won two Academy Awards for his films “Z” and “Missing.” Other acclaimed films include “State of Siege,” “Amen.,” “Music Box,” “The Confession,” “Hanna K.” and “Betrayed.” For nearly five decades, Costa-Gavras has tackled some of the key political issues of the day. “Z” was a drama loosely based on the 1963 assassination of a Greek left-wing activist. “Missing,” his 1982 film starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, told the story of American journalist Charles Horman, who was abducted and killed after General Augusto Pinochet came to power in Chile in a U.S.-backed coup. In his film “State of Siege,” Costa-Gavras looked at the controversial role of the U.S. Agency for International Development in Latin America. The film was based on the kidnapping and murder of a U.S. official named Dan Mitrione, who taught torture to Uruguayan officers. His latest film, “Capital,” tells the story of a CEO of a large bank who lays off many of the employees and brokers a corrupt deal with the head of an American hedge fund.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Today we’re joined by a man described as one of the world’s greatest living political filmmakers, Costa-Gavras. Born in Greece 80 years ago in 1933, Costa-Gavras has won two Academy Awards for his films Z and Missing. His other films include State of Siege, Amen., Music Box, The Confession, Hanna K. and Betrayed.

For nearly five decades, Costa-Gavras has tackled some of the key political issues of the day. Z was a drama loosely based on the 1963 assassination of a Greek left-wing activist. The opening credits to the film read: “Any resemblance to real events, to persons living or dead, is not accidental. It is DELIBERATE.” Missing, his 1982 film starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, told the story of American journalist Charles Horman, who was abducted and killed after General Augusto Pinochet came to power in Chile in a U.S.-backed coup.

AMY GOODMAN: In his film State of Siege, Costa-Gavras looked at the controversial role of USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, in Latin America. The film was based on the kidnapping and murder of a U.S. official named Dan Mitrione, who taught torture to Uruguayan officers. The film was too controversial for Washington. A screening at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1972 was cancelled.

Today, at the age of 80, Costa-Gavras is still going strong. His latest film, Capital, tells the story of a CEO of a large bank who lays off many of the employees and brokers, a corrupt deal with the head of an American hedge fund. This is the film’s trailer.

DITTMAR RIGULE: [played by Gabriel Byrne] Your shareholders our fierce, and they are waiting.

I told you to start firing people.

MARC TOURNEUIL: [played by Gad Elmaleh] No way.

DITTMAR RIGULE: You lose our backing, and your little French frog friends will drop you.

NARRATOR: In the cutthroat world of global finance, helping the little guy is a luxury you just can’t afford.

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] I wanted to teach economics and win the Nobel Prize. Instead, I make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

NARRATOR: But if you make the right friends …

DITTMAR RIGULE: What we want to create is a powerful bank.

NARRATOR: … and know all the angles …

DITTMAR RIGULE: You help us, and we help you.

NARRATOR: … you can do anything you want.

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] We won’t deal in weapons, polluting chemicals, money laundering.

[in English] I want us to break free from the past together. I want to know you.

NASSIM: [played by Liya Kebede] Always dress like a banker.

NARRATOR: Just be careful.

MARC TOURNEUIL: This is my wife.

DIANE TOURNEUIL: [played by Natacha Régnier] Nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED: Let’s keep this between ourselves, shall we?

NARRATOR: Because the one thing money can’t buy …

NASSIM: So think about pleasure. Only about pleasure.

NARRATOR: … is a conscience.

UNIDENTIFIED: A rumor is playing havoc with the numbers. Where’s the president?

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] My own execs are poised to stab me.

EXECUTIVE: [translated] We’ll break you.

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] Try.

NARRATOR: Redemption …


NARRATOR: … comes at a cost.

UNIDENTIFIED: He’s going too far.

JACK MARMANDE: [played by Daniel Mesguich] [translated] Let’s dump him!

NARRATOR: But corruption …

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] What can you do?

RAPHAËL SIEG: [played by Hippolyte Girardot] [translated] Everything.

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] And if it’s illegal?

NARRATOR: … is priceless.

DITTMAR RIGULE: People believe that money is a tool. Well, they’re wrong. Money is the master.

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] I’m your modern Robin Hood. We’ll keep robbing the poor to give to the rich!

NARRATOR: Capital, from two-time Academy Award-winning director, Costa-Gavras.

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] They’re children. Overgrown children.

AMY GOODMAN: Capital, the new film by the legendary filmmaker Costa-Gavras. He joins us here in our New York studio.

Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s an honor to have you with us.

COSTA-GAVRAS: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: So tell us about Capital.

COSTA-GAVRAS: Capital is a movie about money, of course, but essentially it’s about human beings and how they’re affected by the money, because I believe, since a couple of decades, even more, the money becomes a kind of religion in our societies. And we speak—and the ethics getting more and more weaker, and the money is getting bigger and bigger. And we have more and more poor people and more and more rich people, and the middle class is just shrinking.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Did you decide to make the film after the 2008 financial crisis?

COSTA-GAVRAS: No, I started before, several years before. During the crisis, we were writing the script, and we decided not to speak about it, except for just one line, when someone asks, “How is the budget crisis?” And the answer was—is: We didn’t get—we didn’t reach yet the—no, “The worst is about to come.”

AMY GOODMAN: In this scene from your film Capital, the character Marc Tourneuil, head of a large French investment firm, meets with men from the American hedge fund who want to buy him out.

UNIDENTIFIED: Chairman Marmande loved it, too.

DITTMAR RIGULE: Oh, yes, Chairman Marmande and Claude, they spent many fine weekends here. By the way, Marc, if you want to take out one of the little boats for a cruise, why don’t you take one of the crew with you?

WOMAN IN HOT TUB: Yeah, come in. It’s so hot.

MARC TOURNEUIL: We have to get back tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] He left with them.

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] Where are they going?

UNIDENTIFIED: Let’s keep this between ourselves, shall we, Marc?

DITTMAR RIGULE: We’re your only friends, Marc.


YOUNG: [played by Jordan Woods-Robinson] We borrowed heavily to acquire Phoenix. We need it to pay off now. Our principal is to examine the numbers on a monthly basis.

DITTMAR RIGULE: Shareholders must know where their money is.

YOUNG: Return on equity must reach 20 percent. For every major transaction, significant bonuses will be granted to you.

DITTMAR RIGULE: How you achieve this is, of course, entirely up to yourself. We await your reply, Marc.

UNIDENTIFIED: We’re pack hunters, Marc. You’re most welcome to join the pack.

AMY GOODMAN: And there you have that scene from Capital. Tell us the storyline, Costa-Gavras.

COSTA-GAVRAS: The storyline, it’s—Marc Tourneuil, he’s just an employee in the bank. And they—they push them up to the highest point, so he—they put him up there just for a while, and he decides to stay. And he does everything he can to stay up there. That’s generally the story. And he becomes—he’s a good man in the beginning, and little by little he becomes a kind of sympathetic monster.

AMY GOODMAN: And you base this on a book.

COSTA-GAVRAS: It’s based on a book written by someone who was in the banking system, and he ran away because he was very tired and with disgust, and he did that book. But I had to change a few things, in particular the end, because at the end, the character in the book was punished. And I think this is not very real, what’s going on. No banker has been in prison since all the problems we have with them. So, I—at the end, he keeps being an important person in the banking system.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And you researched the film over many years.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, what are some of the things that you found out about the banking industry and about the finance world, as you did this research?

COSTA-GAVRAS: I found out that there is no—they are working—they are legal. Everything they do there is legal. Everybody accepts them. And finally, they do very negative things for the society most of the time. And you know that in America, when a lot of people lost their houses because of the way the banks, bankers and the banking system was working.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, one of the things that you make a distinction—you make a very clear distinction in the film between European-style capitalism and American capitalism. Do you think that distinction is as clear now?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yes, it used to be, but it’s less and less, because they don’t accept the regulations. Everybody says we need regulations all over, but there is no regulations in the American system. So they say in Europe, “We should get rid of our regulations,” and they do, because if we keep them, the American banking system, which is so strong, will eat us.

AMY GOODMAN: In this scene from Capital, we see the family of character Marc Tourneuil confront him while they’re having dinner together.

DIANE TOURNEUIL: [translated] Bruno, not today, please.

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] He’s the champion bungler of family meals.

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] Very badly, Uncle. Very badly.

UNCLE BRUNO: [played by Jean-Marie Frin] [translated] That doesn’t answer my question.

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] The bank was going under. It had to be saved. We had to fire people to save 100,000 jobs worldwide.

UNCLE BRUNO: [translated] Don’t give me that. I’ve heard it too often. You bleed people three times: One, the market wants blood, you relocate, workers lose their jobs; two, you bleed them as customers; three, via Europe’s debts, you zap countries, and their citizens get bled. Worker, customer, citizen are the same guy, so you screw him three times. Money turns everything rotten. I expected better from you.

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] Thanks, Uncle. But you should be glad.

UNCLE BRUNO: [translated] Why? Because we relocate, create unemployment, raise prices to enrich stockholders and break the social system to pay off the debt? Because you’re successful?

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] No, because I’m fulfilling your childhood dreams.

UNCLE BRUNO: [translated] My childhood dreams?

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] You lefties wanted internationalism. We’ve got it. Money knows no borders, nor does work. Here, look. See this toy? I got it in London. It’s German, made in Indonesia.

UNCLE BRUNO: [translated] By children.

MARC TOURNEUIL: [translated] Maybe. But the world you dreamt of couldn’t have fed those children. Our internationalism will manage. I’m also working for that. Ah, New York. Money never sleeps. One must watch it like milk on a stove, or it boils over and you have to fire people.

AMY GOODMAN: The CEO’s family has conscience, Costa-Gavras.

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yes, particularly an uncle, who is probably very lefty, probably a communist, and with different ideals years ago, and everything fell apart. So, his nephew says, “We’re doing the good job today,” because he believes what he do, he’s convinced that it is a good thing to do.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, you explore also in the film various forms of resistance to the—let’s call it the Americanization of French capitalism. How do you see that playing out in the rest of Europe, in other places, as well?

COSTA-GAVRAS: It’s the same all over. It’s the same. It’s the really modernization of that—of the American system. There is no doubt of that.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Because what do you see as some of the effects of that system in Europe?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Well, the effects, you can see them in what’s going on in Spain, in Greece, in Portugal. I mean, there was this huge debt, and we have more and more, as I was saying before, more and more poor people and more and more rich people, and the middle class is about to disappear.

AMY GOODMAN: When you made this film, among the places you made it was Miami. That was your first time there?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yes, it was. And I was—I was really surprised to see how many private boats there are there. The boat we used there, it costs something like $60 million, and there is tens—hundreds of them.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, and when we come back, we’re going to talk about some of your other films and your plans for a new film about Greece, deeply troubled right now. We’re speaking with the world-renowned Greek-French filmmaker Costa-Gavras. Among his films, Missing, about the coup in Chile, which just passed the 40th anniversary, as well as Z. And we’ll talk about these and more. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: That music composed by the Greek musician Mikis Theodorakis. It was the score of Costa-Gavras’s 1972 movie, Z. In fact, Theodorakis was imprisoned, imprisoned by the Greek dictatorship during the time that Costa-Gavras was making his famed political thriller.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. And our guest for the hour is Costa-Gavras. Before we talk about Z and Missing, State of Siege and others of your films, talk about where you were born and why you left Greece, Costa-Gavras.

COSTA-GAVRAS: I was born in the south of Greece in Peloponnese, but after the German occupation, we came to Athens. All the family came to Athens. And the first thing my family would like to do was send me to the United States, because my mother had a brother here and some uncles in Milwaukee. So I tried to go there, but there was no way to have a visa to come to the United States because my father has done the resistance against Germans with left-wing people, and it was against the king. So, I—

AMY GOODMAN: And this was what year?

COSTA-GAVRAS: This was in '50, ’51, ’52. That's right. And then I decided—

AMY GOODMAN: Resistance against the Nazis—


AMY GOODMAN: —was going to prevent you from coming into the United States?

COSTA-GAVRAS: In a certain way, yes. Certainly it was of the position of my father, because the family and the kids—those are guys—they could not go to the university in Greece. They have to present a certificate for the good behavior of their parents or their fathers, so it was impossible to go to university to study. So I had to go to France, because in France the studies are free. They used to be and still are a lot of help for the students.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So to what extent did your father’s political orientation and his resistance influence the direction that your films took?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Probably did, but I don’t want to know about that.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you really got your training in Paris, in France.

COSTA-GAVRAS: In Paris, absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: Otherwise, you would have become a Hollywood filmmaker, if the U.S. had let you in.

COSTA-GAVRAS: Nobody knows who I would be if was coming to the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about your influences in Paris, what it meant to come of age with French film.

COSTA-GAVRAS: I was very, very lucky to meet people like Simone Signoret, Yves Montand and Jorge Semprún and some other—

AMY GOODMAN: Yves Montand, the famous actor.

COSTA-GAVRAS: Absolutely, famous actor. And his wife was also a famous actress, working here and there. And I went in a group with extraordinary people, and I was very lucky. And I learned a lot about life, about politics and about movies also.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: You’ve also said that films are always political, regardless of the director’s intention. Could you explain what you mean by that? In other words, even if the film is not explicitly about politics, it’s still political?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yes. It’s enough to see why, how the movies are made and what they show. I mean, I used to say that some of the movies, what just are action movies, that indirectly, or even directly sometimes, they teach young people that violence is necessary in society, or that kind of things. But they don’t often be political. The idea is how—the effect they have on the young people.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about Z, which had a profound effect on people all over the world. I want to play a clip from the famous opening sequence of Z. This is the chief of police addressing a meeting of government officials on the dangers of the left.

POLICE CHIEF: [played by Pierre Dux] [translated] With the outbreak of isms like socialism, anarchism, imperialism or communism, sunspots start to multiply on the face of the golden orb. God refuses to enlighten the reds. Scientists forecast an increase in sunspots due to the arrival of beatniks and pacifists from certain countries such as Italy, France and Scandinavia. As head of law and order here in the north, I wish to tell you who are high civil servants. We must preserve the healthy elements of our society and heal those that are ill. Tonight the enemy is holding a meeting in our city. But we are not an ism. We are a democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: From the opening sequence of Costa-Gavras’s Z. And at the beginning of that film, you famously play the opening credits, saying, “Any resemblance to real events, to persons living or dead, is not accidental. It is DELIBERATE.”

COSTA-GAVRAS: Deliberate.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happens in this film.

COSTA-GAVRAS: In this film, the royal family and some military decided to eliminate a new politician who was proposing a new way of politics in Greece, because in that period, it was the Cold War, have left, extreme left, the communists, and then the right. And he was proposing a different way, a middle way, with no war, with no military spendings and so forth. And they decided to—just to kill him. And they create a small system. They kill him. And then, the story—I mean, the fact will completely disappear, except we have a good judge, who went through—he was a right-wing judge, and his father was one of important militarists, and he decided to establish justice. And he went on and on, and he—that’s the story, about that judge and the way he acted.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, let’s turn to part of the trailer for Z. The film was banned in Greece under the military junta that ruled from 1967 to 1974.

MANUEL: [played by Charles Denner] [translated] Is it now obvious that they are targeting troublesome witnesses.

MAGISTRATE: [played by Jean-Louis Trintignant] [translated] I’m the magistrate here. Spare me your advice.

MANUEL: [translated] They knew I had vital information for you. On my way here, a car tried to run me down.

POLICE CHIEF: [translated] You fell and hit your head on the sidewalk.

NICK: [played by Georges Géret] [translated] No, someone hit me. I was going to meet the judge, because I have proof about the deputy’s murder.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was an excerpt from your film—the trailer of your film Z. So could you explain why is it that the film is in French, you made the decision to make the film in French?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Because there was no way to make it in Greek, in Greece.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Would that have been your preference?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Essentially, yes, because it was a Greek story. Then I had to make in French with French actors, who are very important actors who decided to play the movie. And we didn’t have so much money, either. And we were able to make it really very easily because of the famous actors I have in the movie.

AMY GOODMAN: Like Yves Montand—

COSTA-GAVRAS: Like Yves Montand.

AMY GOODMAN: —playing Grigoris Lambrakis.

COSTA-GAVRAS: Absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain both Lambrakis—


AMY GOODMAN: —his significance, and also just the music we were just listening to underlying the film. Mikis Theodorakis was in prison during this time.

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yes, was in prison. And there was no way to have him make the music, so—but I contact him through a friend, and he said to me, “Just take music from all my music. Take the pieces you need.” And so I did.

AMY GOODMAN: Why was he in prison?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Because the military government didn’t like him, because he was considered like being a lefty.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: But you pointed out—

COSTA-GAVRAS: Against them.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: —it was difficult to get financing for this film.

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yes, it was very difficult. We have done the movie without being paid, all of us—and some of them major actors like Yves Montand and Jean-Louis Trintignant.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And apparently a number of the major Hollywood studios said that political films are always poison at the box office.

COSTA-GAVRAS: That’s right, and nobody would like to produce the movie. And finally, we did it. And it was a surprise for all of us, even for us, that it was that kind of huge success all over the world. You know, at the end of the movie, the audiences all over the world, they were applauding. It was really something very new.

AMY GOODMAN: And you won the Oscar for this for best foreign film.

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yes, foreign films, and for editing also. We had a lot of—five or six nominations, if I remember.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the significance of this, although you don’t like to talk about political filmmaking, that a political film like this, that was banned in your own country, couldn’t be seen at this time, was winning the Academy Award and being acknowledged in the rest of the world?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yeah, there’s no contradiction. I think people like the movie. The voters for the Academy Award like the movie, so they voted for it.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Your screenwriter—your co-screenwriter for the film has said that the film has significance far beyond the particular situation that was represented in it. He said, “Let’s not try to reassure ourselves. This type of thing doesn’t only happen elsewhere; it happens everywhere.” So do you see a certain universal theme in Z?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yes, because, essentially, the military government used to control the justice, control the police and control the army. And if in a democracy you do that, there is no democracy anymore. And this happens in a lot of countries around the world, even today, something like 40 years later.

AMY GOODMAN: The—one of the opening scenes, the preparing for the big political rally, a hall, says—


AMY GOODMAN: —to the organizers of the—this Greek protest, “Get out of here!” There are peace signs everywhere.


AMY GOODMAN: “I don’t care. I don’t want your money.”

COSTA-GAVRAS: It was the great period of asking for peace everywhere, because there were military bases all over the world. The Russians were preparing a big war with atomic bombs. The Americans, they were doing the same thing from their part. And so, the big fear was to have an atomic war, which would be a total catastrophe for the Earth.

AMY GOODMAN: And so we move forward decades.


AMY GOODMAN: And you have just finished Capital, but you’re moving on now to make a film about your own country. I mean, you have lived for decades in France—


AMY GOODMAN: —but you’re now going to be looking at Greece.

COSTA-GAVRAS: I’m trying. I’m trying to find—to write a script to make a movie there, because I am very curious what’s—what is happening there and to show also how the Greek people, the majority of the Greek people, suffer with that crisis, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about what’s happening there for a minute. The Greek government has launched a probe of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in the aftermath of the killing of a prominent hip-hop musician. Rapper Pavlos Fyssas was stabbed to death by a Golden Dawn supporter outside a cafe last month, the murder sparking a new wave of protests against Golden Dawn, which placed third in last year’s Greek election. On Monday, Greek parliamentarians condemned the party. This is Communist Party lawmaker Liana Kanelli.

LIANA KANELLI: The problem is not deciding if they’re a gang or not. I think that everybody has already understood that they are. They are brutal, bestial, like all the Nazis, by birth. If you—if you want to be a Nazi, then you can’t be anything else but a beast. The problem is now to convince people that they’ve never been, they are not, and they will never be the solution of any of the popular problems.

AMY GOODMAN: Costa-Gavras?

COSTA-GAVRAS: This fascist group, who are still in—if you see the movie, still in the—in Z, you can see them. But it’s—at that time, it was a smaller group. And because of the crisis, the group grew up enormously, because they’re promising changes in Greece, to save the Greece from the crisis, which is completely fake. So, some people are so unhappy, so miserable, so they think they can find solutions by voting these people. But they’re really fascist, like the Nazis used to be.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Have you spent any time in Greece during the protests, when the protests were occurring?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yes, I were there sometime, yes. I see how the protest was big, and people trying to say you have to stop with them—to stop them. And finally, the government decided to stop them. We’ll see if it will continue, see how far that’s going to go.

AMY GOODMAN: We got word out that you were going to be the guest on our show for the hour, and people were writing in from all over the world questions. On our Facebook page, Michael Clark posted this question for you, Costa-Gavras. He said, “Mr. Costa-Gavras, what is the solution for Greece to free herself from the banksters, IMF, EU and her corrupt politicians?”

COSTA-GAVRAS: You know, a filmmaker doesn’t have solutions. He has questions, and that’s all. I mean, the solutions have to be found from the politicians, from people who we vote for, and also the European Community and others. I don’t have the solution. The problem in Greece is very complex, but it’s very real for the people.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Do you think now, depending on what shape your film takes now on Greece, your future project, is it easier or harder to get financing for films of this kind?

COSTA-GAVRAS: It is harder. It is hard, and it’s a big fight.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Even in Europe?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Even in Europe. But in France, we have a system which makes the whole thing much easier.

AMY GOODMAN: Which is what?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Which is we will receive help from—small help from the state. But also the television channels, they are obliged to co-produce movies. So they’re co-producing also movies.

AMY GOODMAN: Ah, that’s fascinating. I wanted to go from Greece, from Europe, to Latin America, where you have also done a number of very powerful films. This is the trailer for Costa-Gavras’s 1982 Oscar-winning film Missing, which follows Ed Horman, the father of U.S. journalist Charles Horman, as he goes to Chile amidst the bloodshed of the coup to join his daughter-in-law, who’s played by Sissy Spacek—Joyce Horman is the woman—in the search for his son.

ROJAS: [played by Félix González] Name of missing person?

BETH HORMAN: [played by Sissy Spacek] Don’t you have this written down somewhere? I’ve answered it a thousand times.

ROJAS: [played by Félix González] Name of missing person, please?

SENATOR: [played by Hansford Rowe] You’ve been in touch with our embassy down there?

ED HORMAN: [played by Jack Lemmon] Well, Senator, all they seem to know is that my son is missing.

ROJAS: [played by Félix González] Date of disappearance?

BETH HORMAN: He’s been gone two weeks. He could be hurt or tortured.

ROJAS: [played by Félix González] Time of disappearance?

DAVID HOLLOWAY: [played by Keith Szarabajka] I looked for him everywhere. He’s just gone, vanished.

CONSUL PHIL PUTNAM: [played by David Clennon] After analyzing all the data, we still come to the conclusion that he must be in hiding.

BETH HORMAN: You know damn well he’s not in hiding! Our whole neighborhood saw him picked up by a goon squad!

ED HORMAN: I don’t want to hear any of your anti-establishment paranoia!

BETH HORMAN: Why don’t you just go home? I’ll find my husband by myself.

ED HORMAN: Where is he?

SAMUEL CROSS: [played by Alan Penrith] He’s in the north. He should be out of the country sometime next week.

COL. CLAY: [played by Terence Nelson] There’s another theory, that he was picked up by leftists posing as soldiers.

CAPT. RAY TOWER: [played by Charles Cioffi] There are even people who think it may have been his idea to make it look like they’re arresting Americans.

BETH HORMAN: They are arresting Americans.

ED HORMAN: What stupid thing did Charles do?

CAPT. RAY TOWER: He was a bit of a snoop.

BETH HORMAN: Your son’s a pretty popular guy around here.

CAPT. RAY TOWER: Poked his nose around in a lot of dangerous places.

FRANK TERUGGI: [played by Joe Regalbuto] All of a sudden this place is like a free fire zone. They’ll shoot at you just for being left-handed.

ED HORMAN: If you had stayed where you belong and paid a little attention to the basics, this never would have happened.

BETH HORMAN: I don’t want to fight with you. I just want to get Charlie back.

ED HORMAN: What kind of world is this?

PARIS: [played by Martin LaSalle] He said the man must disappear. He knew too much.

CAPT. RAY TOWER: Don’t you think that’s a hell of a statement, especially considering we’re here to protect American citizens?

ED HORMAN: How can I verify that?

PARIS: You can’t.

BETH HORMAN: Stop! Stop it!

Do you think he’s dead?

ED HORMAN: I’m not going to leave this country 'til I find my son, alive or dead. I'll go anywhere in any way. You can tie my hands. You can blindfold me. I just want my boy back! He’s the only child I have.

AMY GOODMAN: From the trailer, Missing, the Oscar-winning film of 1982. We just passed the 40th anniversary of the U.S.-backed coup in Chile, another September 11, 1973, backed by President Nixon, by Secretary of State Kissinger, by ITT. Who was Charles Horman, and why did you decide to make this film? You have these great actors—Jack Lemmon, Sissy Spacek.

COSTA-GAVRAS: I was—Jack Lemmon accepted to make the movie. That was a really big—I was very lucky. The story is of a young—the story of Missing is a young American who goes to Chile in the period of Allende. And when he gets there, the same day, Allende has decided to give one liter of milk to every poor child. So, as a young American, very romantic—

AMY GOODMAN: So the president of Chile is giving milk to every poor child.

COSTA-GAVRAS: To every poor child. So, this young, very romantic American says, “This is a great system!” So he decides to stay. And he stays, and he works, and he’s a little bit a filmmaker, a little bit also journalist. And the day of the coup, he meets American officials and militaries, and he discovers that something wrong is going on, and then, a few days later, disappears completely during the coup. And his father goes down there to find him. Jack Lemmon played the part. And his father, who voted for Nixon over that time, and he didn’t like his son. He thought his son was a kind of failure, because he was an artist and that kind of thing. He is furious against him. But little by little, he discovers that his son was a good person, and his country was doing down there something very negative. That’s the whole story. And as I was saying, I was really happy to have Jack Lemmon, who decided to play it, because he was extraordinary, as Sissy Spacek.

AMY GOODMAN: I was just with Jack Lemmon’s son at a 40th anniversary of the coup event, who talked about how deeply meaningful this film was for him. And, I mean, he was really considered a comedic actor. How did you see beyond that, Costa-Gavras, to say, “I want Jack Lemmon to play Charles Horman’s father”?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Well, the first meeting we have in Universal in Hollywood, I said that I would like Jack Lemmon. Everybody was curious. They say, “Jack Lemmon? Are we doing a comedy?” Said, “No, he’s a great artist.” He played some good movies, like the Save the Tiger, for example, or The Apartment. And he could be—and there was a real fight. And after a while, the producer, Ed Lewis, said, “OK, let’s take—if he likes Jack Lemmon, let’s have Jack Lemmon.” And it was great, because he—apart of the—he won awards in the Cannes festival and in some other festivals, and particularly, he was so good, so real, like an American of—middle-class American.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: One of your producers has apparently said that it would be impossible to make the film Missing now. Is that right?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yes, it is. Yes.


COSTA-GAVRAS: [inaudible] say that. Because now Hollywood is completely different. What they’re doing now, they’re doing those big, big movies with special effects and a lot of action, a lot of killing and that kind of things. There’s a few good movies they start now, because I believe Hollywood understands that it’s enough with that kind of monsters they’re doing.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Missing. When we see Joyce Horman, the widow of U.S. journalist Charles Horman, though she doesn’t know she’s a widow at that time, she is called “Beth” and played by Sissy Spacek. Joyce was very nervous about someone making a film, and she wanted to distance herself, though she recently told me, when she went to Mexico, where you were making the film, she was just astounded by what you were doing and was changing her mind at that time. She and Jack Lemmon, who plays Charles Horman’s father Ed, go to the Chile stadium where they’re allowed to get on the loudspeaker and ask if he’s there. Thousands of sympathizers of ousted President Salvador Allende were rounded up and taken to the stadium in the days following the September 11, 1973, coup.

BETH HORMAN: Charlie? This is Beth. I’m here with your dad, Charlie, and the American consul. So if you can hear me, please come out so we can take you home.

ED HORMAN: Charles Horman, this is your father, Edmund. I’m here in the hope that you can hear me. Charles? Charles? Do you remember when we took that trip together across country from L.A. to New York? Just the two of us.

AMY GOODMAN: What a scene, now called Víctor Jara Stadium.


AMY GOODMAN: Víctor Jara, the great folk singer who died also at that time right near the stadium. As we wrap up this part of the discussion—we want to talk about State of Siege after break—you made this in Mexico. You couldn’t make this during the coup. And now, the latest news, Ray Davis, who was responsible for the death of Charles Horman, he may well have died in Chile recently. It’s not clear. I saw Joyce just the other night at the premiere of your film Capital, and she’s saying she needs to be convinced; the U.S. embassy is not even, she feels, coming clean on this, so many decades later.

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yes, they tried to have all the evidence about what happened that day to Charles, but the American government didn’t give to them. So it’s still—the case is still pending, in a certain way.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: How was the film received in the U.S. when it first came out?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Very well. Very well for some people. Very badly for some other people.

AMY GOODMAN: Costa-Gavras is our guest for the hour, the world-renowned Greek-French filmmaker. When we come back, we’re going to look at State of Siege, State of Siege about a U.S. official in Latin America involved with torture. He was kidnapped, and he himself was murdered. We’re also going to talk about his film on a past pope. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: The music again by the Greek musician Mikis Theodorakis for the score of Costa-Gavras’s 1972 movie State of Siege. Theodorakis was free by then. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Costa-Gavras for the hour. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So let’s go to a clip from Costa-Gavras’s 1972 film, State of Siege. The film was based on the kidnapping and murder of a U.S. official named Dan Mitrione, who taught torture to Uruguayan officers. Here, the USAID worker—his character in the film is Philip Michael Santore—is being interrogated by one of his kidnappers about his work with the country’s repressive police force.

KIDNAPPER: [translated] In ’69, you arrived in our country.

PHILIP MICHAEL SANTORE: [translated] Yes, in July.

KIDNAPPER: [translated] You had an office in the headquarters.

PHILIP MICHAEL SANTORE: [translated] Yes, the office of AID technical assistance.

KIDNAPPER: [translated] And another office in the embassy.

PHILIP MICHAEL SANTORE: [translated] Exactly, exactly. In fact, I only worked there. I went to the headquarters every 15 days. So, you see, I’ve never involved myself too much in the affairs of the police.

KIDNAPPER: [translated] Only you directed them.

PHILIP MICHAEL SANTORE: [translated] I am not as important as you think.

KIDNAPPER: [translated] You are. You are. And you went much more often to the headquarters. A parking space was reserved for you next to the police chief. You arrived every day between 8:45 and 9:00. And you had your own office on the same floor as him. Do you know Captains Lopez and Romero?

PHILIP MICHAEL SANTORE: [translated] Well enough. They’ve been in contact with technical assistance.

KIDNAPPER: [translated] Since when have you known them?

PHILIP MICHAEL SANTORE: [translated] Since I came here. A year, more or less.

KIDNAPPER: [translated] No, you knew them in ’67 in Washington, the International Police Academy.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was a clip from Costa-Gavras’s 1972 film, extremely controversial film, State of Siege. So, Costa-Gavras, could you talk about the story behind this film? Who was Dan Mitrione?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Dan Mitrione was an official working in Uruguay, and he was supposed to be there to help the agriculture and other and universities and so forth. And the Tupamaros were a kind of lefty movement, revolutionary movement, but very peaceful by the time. They kidnapped him, and they—because they have discovered that he was teaching the police how to torture and how to change the police system. And they kidnapped him and asked him to liberate a lot of prisoners. If not, they will kill him. But the government decided not to liberate prisoners, and they had to kill him. That was the first very, very—an action which was so negative that, little by little, after that, unfortunately, they disappear. So that’s, in general terms, the story.

AMY GOODMAN: And why did you choose to take on this story?

COSTA-GAVRAS: I liked this story because it looks very much like a Greek story, but it happened in Latin America. So I would like to show that this was the same thing, in a certain way. Because most of those advisers at that time, they’re supposed to be very peaceful, very nice, but most of them, they were doing something negative. Even very negative.

AMY GOODMAN: And it was very controversial when it came out.

COSTA-GAVRAS: Very negative, very controversial everywhere, and particularly the United States. But the movie was shown here. And it was also co-produced with an American company. And it went around the world.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So I want to ask also, very quickly, before we conclude, about your 2002 film, Amen., which looks at the links between the Vatican and Nazi Germany. The central character is a Nazi SS officer employed at the Hygiene Institute who learns the process he develops to eradicate typhus is being used for killing Jews in extermination camps. He attempts to notify the pope but gets little response from the Catholic hierarchy.

KURT GERSTEIN: [played by Ulrich Tukur] I just got back from the camps in Poland. They’re exterminating Jews. I shall be the eyes of God in that hell.

UNIDENTIFIED: You should know that the majority of the faithful and our pastors are behind Mr. Hitler.

UNIDENTIFIED: Our country got back on its feet thanks to Chancellor Hitler.

KURT GERSTEIN: Convoys from all over Europe are arriving at those factories of death. Only the Vatican can do something to stop those atrocities, only His Holiness, by alerting world public opinion and all Christians.

CARDINAL: Are you a Catholic?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was an excerpt from your film Amen. So, could you talk about what you revealed or wanted to reveal in that film, and that pope and the pope we have now?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yeah, the—I mean, the truth is that the pope knew everything about the extermination of the Jews, and for four years he didn’t say a word against that. And he was the most important person in the world at that time, and he didn’t speak about that. Instead, a young priest and a German officer that knew about that, they tried to inform the embassies in all the world, and risking their lives. That’s the whole story. It’s a story about resistance, how people resist in a kind of situation like this one.

AMY GOODMAN: Something your father did.

COSTA-GAVRAS: Yes, yes, and with a lot of risk, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: And your—the pope today?

COSTA-GAVRAS: Oh, I think he’s a good pope. It’s a major change. It’s surprising to listen to him, to read what he says about the church and the change it has to do. I think it’s—I think also the first time in the history of the church, the Catholic Church, that the pope speaks about money and says money is not so important, human beings are important. This is very new.

AMY GOODMAN: Which brings us back to your film Capital, and that is airing now all—opening, premiering around the United States. We thank you so much, Costa-Gavras, for being our guest for the hour, world-renowned Greek-French filmmaker. His films include State of Siege, Missing, Eden is West, the Academy Award-winning Z, as well as Missing. His most recent film, now just opening in the United States, Capital, opens here in New York October 25th and in Los Angeles and other cities on November 1st.

That does it for our show. I’ll be at Princeton University Thursday 5:00 p.m. Check our website for details.

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