Stijn Bouma: The most important thing about making films is honesty

We talked to Stijn Bouma, a young Dutch filmmaker. As a foreigner living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he had some quite interesting views about the film industry, arts and creativity. Besides this, we also found out more about the Film Factory organized by Bela Tarr and the programme itself. Read what young Stijn has to say about all these things and who knows, maybe you will wish to make movies yourself

22. Apr 2015. | 11:00 | Maja Ručević

When did you come here and why? How does your story with Sarajevo begin?

I came here because of the Film Factory programme which was set up by Bela Tarr, Hungarian film director a few years ago. Last summer they had applications for the BA programme and I took a gamble and applied. Why do I say I took a gamble? Well, I am not the world’s most adventurous person. Yes, I travelled around but mostly with family and for holidays. But to leave Netherlands and to go somewhere on my own for a long time, no.

Since BiH was your first home abroad, how did you find it here? Did you experience any cultural shocks or surprises, did you had to adapt a lot?

Of course, I was impressed by the Old Town, Baščaršija especially. This part of the town felt a bit exotic to me but one thing that I really liked immediately are the mountains around Sarajevo. Maybe it’s because I come from the Netherlands. It’s something grand which to me serves as a good counterpoint to everyday life.

So in fact, it was more a geographical ‘shock’ for you, rather than a cultural one?

Yes, but a good one! Even though sometimes I get a feeling that the city is a bit claustrophobic, because it’s small, it’s not a problem: I go on the mountains to discover them. It’s amazing that after only 20 minutes of walking you can already have this amazing view of the city and feel refreshed.

Do you have some favourite places in Sarajevo except the mountains that you tend to visit in your free time?

Mostly at the café bars and in Meeting Point where I like to watch films.

While talking about films, tell us more about your work here. What do you do at the Film factory?

The Film factory is teaching filmmakers but what appealed to me specifically is the approach they have, which is not a classical one. They don’t really believe in teaching filmmakers or artists. They really believe in somehow developing yourself, individually, as a filmmaker. That’s why we have a lot of workshops where we get to know different approaches by numerous interesting guests all around the world and from Bosnia. Besides these encounters with guest lecturers we are constantly working on new projects as well.

It is art, people react differently to it, so it is therefore also a big challenge. What is most challenging while making a movie, for you, personally?

I would say that maybe one of the most challenging things is to be honest. Honest to yourself and the people you are working with, which seems necessary to me before you are able to create something good. This takes a lot of courage and personal strength which I don’t always find easy. I try to work on it though.

What do you think about the current situation in the Bosnian cinema? Is there someone you admire especially? Or something, someone you dislike?

I think I still don’t know enough about it to judge it. As for those I admire, there is a teacher I like. It’s Faruk Lončarević, he has a lot of knowledge. His classes are consistently eye-openers for me.

This year, you are highly focused on documentary films at the Film factory. What are you currently working on? Is there some special project you are preparing?

Well, right now I am working on a 20 minutes documentary film about this restaurant called ‘Žara iz duvara’, situated just behind Markale, led by this beautiful woman that I admire very much. In finding something worthwhile to film it’s important to have a connection with something. This is something I’m struggling with but in this case it was closest to me and therefore natural to shoot my film there.

Do you find more triggers in people and their personalities or, for example, in some situation where there is no people, in the nature or something similar? Where do these triggers come from?

I would say they come from your own experience, and especially from your interaction with the people that surround you.

Talking about people, what do you think about the people in Sarajevo, in general?

I have a good impression. I know mostly The motivating 'triggers' come from your own experience, and especially from your interaction with the people that surround you. I would say that maybe one of the most challenging things is to be honest. Honest to yourself and the people you are working with, which seems necessary to me before you are able to create something good. This takes a lot of courage and personal strength people of my age, but I don’t speak Bosnian. They are usually friendly yet sometimes I have the feeling that it is like that because I am an outsider, but maybe it’s not like that at all.

Do you have an opinion about the cultural scene and spirit in Sarajevo? Is there enough content, a lack of content?

I must say I haven’t been to lots of events. I saw these big events like Pravo ljudski festival, Jazz festival… But with my narrow knowledge I would say the thing that Sarajevo needs more are funds to get young people developing and creating more. Maybe there are simply not enough projects and possibilities to create or I am missing out on them.

Do you find Sarajevo to be a motivating, inspiring city when it comes to making art?

I do. But I feel once you spend a certain amount of time somewhere, you start to perceive less things than in the beginning. You have to train your eye all the time, dig for freshness over and over, and that’s the hardest thing. To be attentive to surprises in everyday things that quickly become habits and therewith blur your vision in a way.

What do you think about the Sarajevo Film Festival? Does it promote our country in a way? What kind of a message does it sends to the world?

I think it has a certain quality, yes. And what is good is that many interesting people come as guests to the SFF so it really focuses some good and big attention for some time on Sarajevo. Very good filmmakers come here. Because of the attention also good films will be seen more than usual, which seems important to me.

You come from the Netherlands. We know we mostly watch Hollywood films, and we know Hollywood has money. But why is there such a lack of European movies, Dutch ones, Czech ones etc.?

Well, it is partly also a historical thing. Hollywood was from the early days an industry but for example in the twenties France and Germany also had a big film industry. After the two world wars, things changed. The American influence was huge, in the sense of ‘rebuilding Europe’. You can still watch European films though. For example, Meeting point plays some really good movies from across Europe. As for the Dutch film, it’s true: we are not really big movie distributors. We have kind of a similar situation to Bosnia, in the sense that we depend very much on co-productions. We work together with Belgium and Germany to make our films. There are some interesting filmmakers rising up though which hopefully will one day be distributed more widely.

Is there a filmmaker you especially admire in the world, a role-model maybe?

It would definitely be the French filmmaker Robert Bresson. To me he managed to find exactly this kind of freshness in everyday life. In the way he constructs his films he raises the attentiveness of the viewer to simple moments. That he achieves it without being overly expressionistic really amazes me. He raised the everyday life to a higher level. When you achieve that other people also become more aware, it’s a great achievement. The films will stay in your mind long after, maybe even slightly changing a person’s perception of the world.

How long are you staying in Sarajevo? What are your future plans?

Well, I am staying here for two more years and after that I will probably go back to Netherlands but I hope to stay in touch with Sarajevo. This feels somewhat like a new home now, I made some new great friendships here…

Did you maybe fell in love in Sarajevo?

No, not yet (laughter). But there are some really beautiful women here!

Stijn Bouma grew up in a small city called Hoorn, in The Netherlands. While in high school he started making short films. After he got his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at the University of Amsterdam in Mediastudies he left for Sarajevo in September 2014.

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