Interviews

IFFR Live host Winfried Baijens: "I fell in love with Rotterdam through IFFR."

Presenter for the NOS broadcaster Winfried Baijens will host the very special IFFR Live event at IFFR. During IFFR Live, six films will screen simultaneously in more than 45 cinemas. Following the screenings, there will be a Q&A with the cast and crew in Rotterdam, with audience members from all cinemas being able to ask questions on #livecinema.

You’re from Rotterdam, aren’t you? Do you always go to IFFR?

I got to know IFFR back in the day through the parties in Hotel Central. At the time, I was living in Amsterdam and one night during IFFR I ended up there. It was a great, messy night with filmmakers, festival crew, festival visitors and lots of Rotterdammers. This is the atmosphere you find all over the festival: low-threshold, even though it’s about high art. In fact, you could even say I fell in love with Rotterdam through IFFR.

IFFR has a pretty big programme. How do you find your way to the right films?

What works well for me is to follow directors; that gives me a frame of reference. There is so much! Xavier Dolan, for example. Dolan was – and still is – so young, and made such good films at an early stage, and really quickly. Films that really touched me. And if you have a favourite like that, you can look out for kindred spirits, and that can lead you to discover new, similar makers.   

Oh, and another tip: go watch films on your own! Leave all your social baggage behind – you’ll be able to concentrate better. For example, films that are so gripping and intense that you almost want to leave – you’re better off watching these alone. With friends, you’re more tempted to look for a distraction, there’s the possibility to escape. I find it easier to give myself up to a film if I’m alone. And art sometimes has to grab you by the throat, right? So much that sometimes you even want to get out – but that’s exactly when you need to stick with it.  

Sometimes you’ve studied the programme really hard, but you still end up at a film that you really don’t get at all. What should you do?

A film that makes you think, ‘it’s probably really good, but I just don’t think I get it’. See it as an exercise. In keeping focus. I’m noticing that this is diminishing now, even with me. You can watch Netflix every day, so a festival like IFFR is a great opportunity for a ‘concentration work-out’. Who knows, you could gain some new insights. Distaste and aversion are also sentiments that can be good for you. Sometimes you want a film to evoke these. Like with music. I love the story about Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps (1913, ed.). The audience rebelled and fights broke out. The performance had to be suspended until the gendarmes had restored order. This has to be possible too! If you really can’t take it, give it another ten minutes and then walk out? Maybe that’s what the filmmaker is after – that’s also art! Don’t supress your responses! Don’t bottle it up, as my mother always said.

 

Now you are presenting the news, you’re dealing with current affairs and the ‘real’ world all day. Do you have more of a need to escape from that now?

Sometimes it’s really good to escape realism and drift off a bit, yes. Every now and then it’s really nice to immerse yourself in fiction. I find it more and more difficult with books; I find it easier with films and music to be carried away to something wondrous. I also like it when truth and fiction mix, like in mockumentaries. Or when it is scarily realistic. Because of the way it’s filmed, the IFFR Live film Home sometimes gives you the feeling you’re like a third person present in the room. By mixing in bits of the scene filmed with a telephone, as if you are really there.

You will be presenting IFFR Live during the festival. What are you expecting?

There’s sometimes a very relaxed atmosphere at IFFR screenings, like at a live concert. People laugh, talk among themselves. I think this will be magnified in IFFR Live: 48 cinemas full of people all watching the same film at the same time. So you can make a date with a friend in Poland or Spain to go to the movies together, even though you are here. A long-distance film relationship!  

Where can you go in Rotterdam if you’ve had enough of film for a while?  

The Schouwburg is great for parties, to round off a day of intensive film-watching at IFFR. West is my part of town, so I like it round there. Walk along the Nieuwe Binnenweg from the festival, and you’ll find enough to do. Or from Lanteren Venster; Katendrecht. Cross the bridge to Deliplein, it’s really cool there.

Discover more about IFFR Live and join the live experience @ live.iffr.com.