My New Favorite Documentary Filmmaker

I have a new favorite documentary filmmaker to join the ranks of Errol Morris. (Morris's last one Standard Operating Procedure is eeringly chilling but effective. It shows how the digital camera does in the barbarism of lost and way too powerful young American men and women, thrown into wars of hatred and non-civilizations.)

My new favorite documentary filmmaker is Thierry Michel.

He is a francophone from Belgium, and he films with great insight and intimacy, inside the absurdities of the human condition and the struggles and challenges of our utopias.

Michel lets the people he documents build their own graves with their words and actions, be it at a cocktail party, a church gathering or on a tennis court, but also gives them a deep range of humanity in just a few minutes. The powerful and rich are made to look slightly if not outrageously ridiculous, while the downtrodden often look heroic but doomed.

With his camera’s positioning, relentless presence and light editing, there is no need for fiction or costumes, our storylines and strange disguises, desperate pursuits and tragic hypocrisies are all too apparent and unveiled by letting film roll.

Some of the topics he has detailed in documentary film, long before they were en vogue internationally, are a decrepit hospital in Guinea, Donka, radioscopie d'un hôpital africain, (Donka, X-Ray of an African Hospital), Rio’s favellas, Gosses de Rio, the strange work of humanitarians in Somalia, Somalie, l'humanitaire s'en va-t'en-guerre, the divisions within Iran, Iran, sous le voile des apparences, (Iran, under the veil of appearances), and a biting portrait of the last colonizers in the former Zaire, Les Derniers Colons.

All these movies and more can be found and seen with subtitles.

Michel gained commercial recognition in Europe and elsewhere with Congo River, Beyond Darkness in 2005, retracing Congo’s convulsed recent history on one trip through the world’s largest river basin.

He started out with mining union movies and another one called, Portrait d'un auto-portrait, which means portrait of an auto-portrait.

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