Lionel Baier • Director
After the East, the West
by Winnie Covo
- The filmmaker talks about the origins of Longwave and Swiss cinema(s) in general.
In Longwave [+see also:
interview: Lionel Baier
film profile], Swiss director Lionel Baier films the Carnation Revolution through the eyes of three Swiss Romand journalists reporting from Portugal.
Cineuropa: How does a Swiss director find himself filming journalists roaming Lisbon in 1974?
Lionel Baier: I was invited in 2009 by the Swiss Romand Radio to tour Eastern Europe for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. I was therefore stopping in several towns and we would go on air. I was accompanied by two journalists and a technician. I found the relationship they had fascinating, as well as the relationship between the journalists and their listeners. Radio is a very personal media, very intimate. I then asked myself how Swiss journalists talk about European history in the 20th century to the Swiss people who never lived through it as they were very protected. I chose Portugal because I know the country well and because there is something very cinematographic about the Carnation Revolution, with a song that sparks a revolution and a complete reversal within a country overnight which could nearly be witnessed in real time.
In Another Man [+see also:
interview: Lionel Baier
film profile] in 2009, you already filmed a journalist. Where does this fascination come from?
Journalists have the profession that is most in contact with the population because we listen to the radio, check our smartphones, read a newspaper, search online... Journalists are not there to create history but they build our short-term memories. When a country no longer has free press, it’s a disaster. Furthermore, our relationship to journalists is always ambivalent. We like to criticize them, say they write poorly, that they don’t tell the truth or that they are too much to the right, too much to the left... But it’s incredible how much we miss it when we don’t have access to information, when we don’t know, or don’t know much, about what is going on somewhere. I was also fascinated by Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski who had not been everywhere he said he had, but who still probably talked about these world conflicts better than if he had been there. A little like Kafka who undoubtedly wrote one of the most brilliant books about America without ever going there. I don’t ask journalists to tell the truth, but rather to have an opinion. From this opinion, I can build my own. This is why I like the world of journalism.
After Stealth [+see also:
film profile] in 2006, Longwave is the second film in a tetralogy. What does the follow-up look like?
There will be a film called Au sud, which will come next year or later. Then another called Au nord. The first should take place is Italy and the second in Great Britain.
You say Switzerland does not exist. Isn’t that a bit pessimistic?
No, that’s what’s superb about it! In the same way, there is no European cinema, only European cinemas and this is our greatest strength compared to other cinematographies. To be able to say: it does not exist, you cannot catch us. When we say "American films" or “French films”, everyone knows what we’re talking about. But when we say "Swiss films"...
Longwave is a Swiss film to which it will be difficult to stick a "Swiss" label.
Yes, first of all because it is a coproduction between three countries. And I do not only think about the Swiss public, I want my films to be seen elsewhere. There is something deeply Swiss about the way it’s done, but the point of universal things is to be “local without boundaries”. It’s all about telling the story of something very local, personal, like the Swiss Romand Radio, while at the same time making sure you talk to the whole world.
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