top of page
23B.très longue pirogue.jpg


By Thierry Michel

1.affiche du film Congo River.jpg

Through this film, I wish to show Africa in the depths of its culture and traditions, in its timelessness and universality. I wish to show that, beyond the darkness and the tragic history of this continent where forces of death clash so violently, there is also life and happiness, that of the rituals, the singing and the dances. This journey to the heart of an Africa abandoned to its violence is above all be a hymn to life, just like the untameable vegetation hemming in the Congo River. On the banks, at different stretches of the journey, I filmed a people’s joys and suffering, the celebrations and ceremonies that punctuate existence such as a birth, a baptism, an initiation rite, a wedding, a death. I also revealed the fate of those who work and live along this river: boatmen or pirogue men, fishermen, hunters, farmers, foresters, trades people, military, rebels and missionaries.


This filmed ascent of the river takes us on a journey in Africa’s history, memory and destiny toward the source and origins of this country as big as a continent: Congo/Zaire. We move up the river basin, the largest in the world, from the mouth all the way to its source. We visit to those places that witnessed this country’s turbulent history, to the cities, towns and villages dotting the 2,716 miles of this river. Alternating the present and the past while questioning the future, the archives remind us of the history of African mythology heroes, bearers of conquests and domination, of revolt and emancipation. We search for the traces and vestiges of the personalities that created that country’s destiny – the explorers Livingstone and Stanley, the coloniser kings Leopold II and Baudouin 1st and the African leaders Lumumba, Mobutu and Kabila. 

But this journey is also a personal path, that of a film maker who has already devoted four films to this country. In Congo, I filmed popular revolt and the arrogance of power in Zaire, the Snake’s Cycle, the predatory and builder spirit in The Last Colonists  and the tragic vanity of a Shakespearean despot in Mobutu, King of Zaire. I want to continue this search of light and darkness, driven by the desire to go ever further into the mystery and depths of this country and its equatorial forest, in time and into the history of this majestic river that inexorably has flowed along for centuries and will for centuries yet to come.

A coproduction Les Films de la Passerelle, Les Films d'Ici, Centre du Cinéma et de l'audiovisuel de la Communauté Française de Belgique et des distributeurs wallons, RTBF Télévision belge, VRT Canvas, VAF, YLE, TSR, VPRO - DGCD - Wallimage - EVS - XDC

Technical sheet
Year: 2005
Duration: 90' & 3 x 60' TV series
Language: French 
Direction: Thierry Michel

Cinematography: Michel Téchy
Sound: Lieven Callens
Editing: Marie-Hélène Quinton
Christine Pireaux - Les Films de la Passerelle
Selection in festivals (33)
Namur Francophone Film Festival
African Cinema Festival
56th Berlinale - Berlin International Film Festival
4th International Film Festival on Human Rights
First international meeting of water and cinema
24th Alès Roaming Cinema Festival
It's all true - International Documentary Film Festival
Docaviv - The Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival
Views of Africa
Afrika Film Festival
Berlinale in Athens
Munich International Documentary Film Festival
6th Ecocinema International Film Festival
Planet Doc Review
Black screen
10th Espoo Cinema International Film Festival
20th International Festival of Francophone Cinema in Acadia
Stranger Than Fiction Documentary Festival & Market
38th International Maritime, Exploration and Environment Film Festival

African and Islands Film Festival
7th Bergen International Film Festival
Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival on Tour
3rd Sevilla International Festival of European Films
16th Ljubljana International Film Festival
Carthage Film Festival 2006
Documentary meetings Libreville
2nd International Festival of African Cinemas in Lisbon
47th Popoli Festival
9th Istanbul International Meeting of Cinema & History Film Festival
QUINTESSSENCE - Ouidah International Film Festival
Francophonie festivals in Bucharest
Awards (9)

“Best European Art and Essay Film” Prize European Art and Essays - 56th Berlinale 2006

★ Prize for best feature documentary - 20th International Festival of Francophone Cinema in Acadia 

★ Audience Award - 11th Afrika Filmfestival Leuven

★ Price of the province of Flemish Brabant

★ Bronze Anchor - 38th Toulon international maritime, exploration and environmental film festival

★ “François de Roubaix” Prize for music - 38th Toulon international maritime, exploration and environmental film festival;

★ RTL Prize (Best comment) - 38th Toulon international maritime, exploration and environmental film festival

★ Honorable Mention - Ouidah International Festival

★ Humanum Prize awarded by the Belgian Cinematographic Press Union

bottom of page