FILMS

 

The man of sand, the cinema of Thierry Michel José-Luis Peñafuerte

During his 40 years in the profession, Thierry Michel has built a rich catalogue of films and remains an insatiable director. Paying justice to the main thrust of this lifetime’s work in one film is a challenge. José-Luis Penafuerte rises to the challenge brilliantly, creating a portrait that is organic and intimate.

The filmmaker’s inspiration is rooted in Wallonia, during the sixties in Belgium, at a time of social struggle and union battles. First as the assistant of Paul Meyer and then with his own camera, Thierry discovers his activist leanings and makes his first films, including the highly combative “Hiver 60”.

Then comes his desire to leave, to escape, to discover Elsewhere, the gateway to which he finds in the Maghreb. The main hero of “Issue de secours” is, in a way, a double of Thierry Michel himself, seeking to give meaning to his existence by confronting the infinite space of the desert.

Soon after that, Thierry finds himself elsewhere, in Brasil, where he films the poverty of the street children, then in Iran, where he captures the essence of the youth there, in search of direction…

But regularly, obsessively, he returns to the African continent, mainly Congo/Zaïre. As the slagheaps of the black country of Charleroi were created in the past, as they are created in Katanga today, Thierry digs deep to extract truths that bring discomfort to dictatorial machines.

His work, inextricably intermingled with the taking of risks, has got him arrested several times and deported twice, first from Zaïre, then from Congo.

But his desire to film remains untarnished : his insightful gaze and his body-camera ceaselessly seek out new territories.

And the stronger the images, the more José-Luis Penafuerte reveals to us the cracks of a man faced with reality, haunted forever by the images he has captured.