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.
For nearly 50 years Thierry Michel has been building a dense cinematographic work that is open to the world, echoing the great questions that cross it. Born in 1952 in Charleroi, in the heart of the Pays Noir, and passionate about photography, he began studying cinema at the IAD at the age of 16, where he met Henri Storck and Paul Meyer. Very quickly, he turns to a socially and politically committed cinema, a cinema in touch with the real, which dissects the stakes and mechanisms. He then directed Pays noir, pays rouge, anchored in his lands, then Chroniques des saisons d'acier, which was part of the Belgian documentary school initiated in 1933 by Henri Storck's Misère au Borinage.
Initially, he alternates documentary and fiction (Hiver 60 especially, on the great Walloon strikes), but always with the concern to be as close as possible to reality.
However, he quickly decided to walk his camera away from his borders, to go elsewhere to find what he no longer found in Wallonia. It stops in Brazil, where it turns A fleur de terre and Gosses de Rio. He discovers black culture, which takes him for the first time on the African continent, where he turns Zaire, the snake cycle. The beginning of a long film story that will haunt his work for more than 30 years, until his last film, The Empire of Silence.
He will make a few incartades to his passion for the Congo, notably with two films that win a great success, Donka, radioscopy of an African hospital, shot in Guinea, and Iran, under the veil of appearances, that captures the tearing contrast between the religious fervour of some and the thirst for freedom of others.
For the past five years, he has been returning to his native lands to take an interest in his youth, in Enfants du Hasard, a portrait of the young generations born of immigration, these little sons of minors, filmed for a year during their last year of primary school, then The School of the Impossible, fragments of life, focused on their adolescence.
But his heart as a filmmaker remained in the Congo. After Zaire, the cycle of the snake, he shot notably Mobutu, king of Zaire, whose international success is known, but also Congo River, Katanga Business, L'Affaire Chebeya, a state crime? then the Irresistible Ascension of Moses Katumbi.
In 2016, he paints a portrait of a resistance fighter, Dr Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynaecologist who treats women who are victims of sexual abuse, denouncing the violence of executioners, and the resilience of victims, in L'Homme qui réparation les femmes - la colère d'Hippocrate. The film travels around the world. In 2018, the Doctor receives the Nobel Peace Prize. During his official speech in Oslo, he emphasized the impunity enjoyed by Congolese war criminals. And he dared to give names. It is with this desire to break this cycle of impunity that Thierry Michel realizes L'Empire du Silence, his last film currently in theatres, which closes his human and cinematic adventure with the Congo, to put pictures and words on this war that does not say its name, and ravages the richest country on the continent for more than a quarter of a century.