Aid for Somalia : a losing battle Thierry Michel

For a month, Thierry Michel followed the membres of aid relief organizations and Belgian soldiers posted in Kismayo as part of the United Nations intervention in Somalia. He filmed the daily life of those soldiers, accompanying them in their military peace-keeping operations and the repatriation of the refugees to their villages. 
It questions the weil or ill-founded justifications for this first worldwide operation of military-humanitarian interference organized under the banner of the United Nations. 
Humanitarian success or suicidl quagmire, liberation or occupation army, violent racists or peace soldiers ? This document gives us a unique approach and insight into an army invested with peace-enforcing mission to a Third-world nation, an army on campaign in the heart of 
Scénario & directed by Thierry MICHEL 
Executive producer Jacques IAURENT 
Loaded with production: Chantal BOURNONVIU.E 
Helper of Coordination Françoise FRANCOIS 
Micheline LEBLUD 
Claudette PICRON 
Photography Patrick VAN NYEN 
Editing: Anne DEJAER 
Nathalie PIGEOLET 
Pixing: Jacques CLISSE 

Production: Unité documentaire
RTBF Télévision belge (CPB) 
In association with Les Films de la Passerelle

Documentary- Betacam SP - 58' - 85'
Thierry Michel was born on October 13, 1952, in Charleroi, Belgium, an area known as "The Black Country". At 16 he studied cinema at the Institut des Arts et Diffusion in Brussels where he came back to teach cinema. He experienced the last tremors before the students' upheavals which was to be the prelude to political enrolment in the militant and lyrical movements of the time. In 1973, he began to work as a filmmaker at the Belgian Television and realized numerous programmes all over the world. He dedicates his first films "Pays Noir, Pays Rouge" and "Chronique des saisons d'Acier" to the coal basin of his youth and his first fiction feature length "Hiver 60" tells of the insurrectional strikes of 1960.

He alternated documentaries and fiction and managed to bring a camera inside a prison's walls to film "Private Hotel", a poignant hymn to liberty at the heart of confinement. After a long quest for his identity and his regional and political origins, Thierry Michel explored other continents and other dreams. The result was his second feature lenth film "Emergency exit", a poetical and mystical work set in the heart of the Moroccan desert which had always attracted him.

He then came back to reality with two very moving pictures, "Kids from Rio" and "From the grass roots" which depicted the street urchins and the favelas of heart-rending Brazil. This was to be his first encounter with the black culture which he studied in-depth in Zaire with "Zaire, the cycle of the serpent", a many award winning film which ruthlessly portrays the ruling class and the rejects of Zaire society.

He made a brief return to Belgium and filmed a Minister at the centre of a political and criminal scandal which has upset all of Belgium: "La grâce perdue d'Alain Van der Biest"; following this he packed his bags once more to investigate the validity of international armed charity with "Aid for Somalia : a losing battle".

A few months later, he sets off for Zaire to shoot "The last colonials" a film on the colonial heritage and the presence of white people and white culture in the country after years of independence. A few days after his arrival, he is arrested, imprisoned and expelled from the country. His equipment is seized, and he finishes his film thanks to his own archives and images from the preliminary shooting. 

He directs "Post-colonial nostalgia", a film on the historical relationship between the Zairian people and white colons during the years of Congo/Zaire's independence. He then sets off for Africa once more, this time to shoot a major work, "Donka, x-ray of an African hospital". This tragic, human and uncompromising portrait of the Conakry hospital in Guinea will win prestigious awards both in Europe and in the United States. 

Thierry Michel pursues his work in the wake of his African experience: following the fall of the Zairian dictator, he starts shooting a historical documentary, somewhat reminiscent of great Shakespearean tragedies: "Mobutu, king of Zaire".

After ten years and seven films made in Africa he goes back to Asia and the Republic of Iran, one of the cradles of Islamic fundamentalism. There he made his latest film "Iran, veiled appearances" in which he paints a portrait of a society that is socially and culturally split. The eye of the film-maker captures the religious fervour of some which contrasts so violently with the desire for freedom of others. After having been selected in major festivals, Thierry Michel has again gleaned numerous international distinctions. 

He then went up the Congo River and once again traveled through Africa’s history, its memory and destiny. "Congo River" is a personal journey to the source and the origin of this country and with it he pursued his quest for light and darkness, being driven by the desire to plunge into the mystery and the depths of the Congolese equatorial forest and its majestic river.

Thierry Michel has an insatiable curiosity and has, for the last twenty years, not stopped filming all the beloved faced that inhabit the "sublime reality" of his camera. "The themes are the same, where you are. Man is the same, whether here or there; life and death are perceived identically. I have yet to stop working".

Thierry Michel

From coal mines to prisons, from Brazil and the Maghreb to black Africa, Thierry Michel has always denounced peoples’ distress and shared their revolts, sometimes in a mixture of fiction and reality. Born on 13 October 1952 in Charleroi in Belgium in an industrial region known as “Black Country”, Thierry Michel began studying at the Institut des Arts de Diffusion in Brussels at age 16. In 1976, he started working at the Belgian television where he made numerous reports around the world. He then went on to filmmaking. He directed two feature-length fiction films, Hiver 60 which dealt with his country’s political situation and Issue de secours, a very personal and poetic piece. Yet his oeuvre is especially known for his many documentaries, which have received international recognition and awards and have been shown around the world. Among them are Gosses de Rio; Zaïre, le cycle du serpent; Donka, X-Ray of an African Hospital; Mobutu, King of Zaire; Iran: Veiled Appearances and Congo River. 

Thierry Michel is a film director, a journalist and a photographer. He also teaches cinema du reel at the Institut des Arts de Diffusion in Belgium and leads documentary film writing and directing seminars around the world.

In projet

"Mékong River" 
Feature Documentary 90 min

"Mémoire coloniale" 
Medium-length Documentary 60 min

In production : 
"Katanga, Mineral Business" 
Feature Documentary 90 min

"Métamorphose d’une gare" 
Medium-length Documentary 60 min

Productions :

2005 "Congo River" 
Feature Documentary - 120 min - serial (3 X 52')
* The prize for International Confederation of Art House Cinemas Berlin Festival –Germany
* The prize for best feature documentary 
20st Festival international du cinéma francophone en Acadie - Moncton – Canada
* The Audience Award at the 11st Afrika Filmfestival –Leuven – Belgique
The Flemish Brabant prize
* The Bronze Anchor at the 38th festival internat. du film maritime, d’exploration et d’environnement - Toulon – France
* The « François de Roubaix » prize for music at the 
38th festival international du film maritime, d’exploration et d’environnement – Toulon – France
* The RTL prize (Best Commentary) at the 38th festival international du film maritime, d’exploration et d’environnement – Toulon – France
* The Honour Mention at international Ouidah festival - Bénin
* The Humanum Price awarded by the Belgian Union Cinematographic Press 

1999 "Mobutu, King of Zaire" 
Feature Documentary – 135' - serial (3 X 52') – 59' - film 35 mm 
Production: Films de la Passerelle - les Films d'Ici- Image Création – RTBF - MCF - CBA - Canal + - CEE - Eurimages - VRT - RTNC - ORF – MEDIA - Agence de la francophonie
Awards : 
* Mention of honor in " Seen by Africa " on 1999 - Montreal - Canada
* Nominee in LOS ANGELES by international Documentary Association ( IDA) for the IDA AWARDS
* Special mention during the discount(delivery) of European Films Awards for Berlin
* Presentation by Rice Khan of Thierry Michel on CNN "emission Q&A"

1996 "Donka, the x-ray of an African hospital" 
Feature Documentary - 55 minutes & 85 minutes
Production : Films de la Passerelle - RTBF - MCF - MSF - Zeaux - Image Création - Canal + - BRTN - CBA
Awards : 
* Prize of the Best Documentary Producer of the European Union at "Vue sur les Docs", Marseille 1996 France
* Golden Spire Winner at San Francisco International Film Festival in the Golden Gate Awards Competition, USA.
* Prize of the best international documentary and prize of the best film of the Festival at the International Documentary Festival from Toronto (Canada) "Hot Docs" Canada
* IDA Award in feature documentary section during the International Documentary Festival Association of Los Angeles - USA

1995 "The last colonials " 
Feature Documentary 61 minutes
Awards :
* Ecrans Nord Sud Prize, "Vues d'Afrique", Montréal (Canada)
* Prize of Honour, International Festival of Exploration film - Toulon (France)

1995 "Post-colonial nostalgia "
Medium-length documentary film 52 minutes

1994 "Aid for Somalia : a losing battle " 
Feature Documentary 58 & 85 minutes

1994 "La grâce perdue d'Alain Van der Biest" 
Feature Documentary 75 minutes

1992 "Zaire, the snake's cycle " 
Medium-length and Feature Documentary film 58 & 85 minutes
Awards :
* Special Jury Prize at Nyon International Festival (Suisse)
* Sesterce d'argent at the International Festival of Nyon (Switzerland)
* The Public Prize the International Festival of Nyon (Switzerland)
* The documentary Silver Medal at l'URTI Monte Carlo (France)
* Nanook Prize at the twelfth ethnographic balance sheet in Paris (France)
* Golden Screen at the festival "Vues d'Afrique" in Montréal (Canada),
* Certificate of Merit at the 38ème Film festival of Cork (Ireland), 
* First Prize at “ Filmer à tout prix ” in Brussels (Belgium)

1990 "From the grass roots " 
Medium-length documentary film 52 & 85 min
Awards : 
* Mention of Honour at Golden Gate Awards San Francisco (USA)

"Kids from Rio " 
Medium-length documentary film 48 min
Awards :
* First Documentary Prize at Biarritz (France)
* Best belgian short film of 89-90 in Gand (Belgium)
* Prize of Honour at Golden Gate Awards, San Francisco (USA)
* Mesquite Award Winner at San Antonio Cine Festival (USA) 

1987 "Emergency exit " 
Feature Film Fiction 90 minutes
* Awards of Salerne (Italy)

1985 "Private Hotel " 
Feature Documentary 55 & 90 minutes
* Awards at the Festival of Nyon (Switzerland)

1982 "Winter 60" 
Feature Film
Awards :
* Prize of social Film (Belgium) 
* Bologne Prize (Belgium)

1980 "Chronicle of the Seasons of Steel"
Feature Documentary

1975 "Black country, Red Country " 
Medium-length documentary film

1973 " Portrait of a Self-portrait " 
Feature Documentary

1971 "Farm of Fir" 
Short documentary film
29/12/1993 81' RTBF 20h11 Belgium