Manu Riche


A film by Manu Riche (from the series Hoge Bomen II) a film by Manu Riche, in
co-production with Canvas and Simple Production. Supported by le Centre du cinema de la communauté française de la Belgique and Flanders Audiovisual Fund.

Ghislain Libart is a modest woodcutter from the Ardennes region, who became world player in international wood trading. European cut trees are transported to Egypt, to make ‘neo-antique’ furniture for the Chinese market. A humble woodcutter who comes to symbolize economic globalization.

Ghislain Libart is a lumberman from the Ardennes who became world player in international wood trading. He has transformed his littlecompany into a multinational enterprise. Libart exports European spruce trees to China, saws down French oak in Egypt and turns expensive wengé trees from the Congo and Sierra Leone into timber. Trees have become big business and Libart does not need to be told twice. Major enterprises all over the globe cannot function without timber and that is where he comes in. The industry may be booming, but the wood sector has received its fair share of economic blows due to the global crisis. We look into the globalisation of our economy, as seen through the eyes of a local lumberman.

The main character of our film is not your average logger. His profession appears to be quite traditional: he cuts down trees in forest such as the Ardennes. However, Libart has learned to trade his wood unlike anyone else and has established an international enterprise. The name Libart may not ring a bell immediately, but he is a modest and small time Belgian entrepreneur who wanted to expand his horizon. Through a series of events, he has become a high roller in a new economic balance. Even in high circles he is recognised as an expert in the lifting and trading of wood.

Trees are big business now. This is determined by the economic status of certain countries such as China. Ten years ago it was still a closed communist country. Today, it is a growing economic superpower, a true energy guzzler that plays a prominent role on the international stage. Besides China, there are more new economic grinding mills that need be sustained. Wood is a key source of energy and a primary resource. Industries have always sprung in places where resources are located in or above the ground. Those days are long gone. It is not absurd anymore to transport resources over a distance of tens of thousands of kilometres. Giants need to be fed no matter what it takes.

Ghislain Libart understands this like no other. Economic superpowers cannot survive without wood, thus they cannot survive without him. Libart’s know-how concerning logging is appreciated worldwide. From the Congo to Egypt, from Lebanon to China, Libart is contacted to chop, ship and trade wood.

This film seeks to unveil the shadow side of contemporary global economics. The film shies away from theoretical discourse. It allows viewers to see and feel how a common forester experiences, follows and undergoes global economics. The economic reality Libart and his partners work in is a visible, tangible world. It is far from the world of indices and stock news. It is made of wood and trees, but of course there is money and negotiating involved. We hear and read a lot about globalisation and immediately associate those reports with images of multinationals and millions of Chinese people. Rarely do we see and know the people who actually play the global game. Libart’s story renders globalisation concrete and tangible.

Manu Riche has found a wonderful character in Ghislain Libart to narrate the current event of globalisation. It is a great opportunity to talk about an interesting theme through the goings on of a seemingly small scale and traditional profession.

Libart is a rural and surly lumberer from the Belgian Ardennes. His personality has humorous sides as well as raw and tough edges. His expertise is required all over the globe, which makes him living proof that no one in our society is left untouched by globalisation. One way or another, we all have to face it.
The harsh laws of trade know no boundaries and are universal. Anyone who gets involved is welcome to the club of international traders. This became clear the moment the economic crisis hit. The global demand for wood plummeted and forced Libart to adjust his goals. The successes of an incessantly growing economy immediately turned into an unforeseeable malaise.

Manu Riche has proven many times before that he is a passionate filmmaker. Using his trademark direct cinema style, this film not only strongly portrays this extraordinary woodchuck, but also the demise of the global economy, the ending of a juicy chapter as well as the frantic attempts to resuscitate the trade business…







HUMO - 03/11/2009

Hoge bomen: Ghislain Libart, boomhakker

't Zijn drukke tijden voor wie Manu Riche heet. Nog maar net is zijn
langverwachte film over Tom Barman in première gegaan
('Portrait of a Young Man as an Artist').
Zondagavond kunt u in 'Quai des Belges' op La Deux nog eens kijken
naar zijn documentaire over Bozar-baas Paul Dujardin, en vanavond
laat hij ons kennismaken met  Ghislain Libart, een Ardense boomhakker
die zijn handeltje tot een multinationaal bedrijf uitbouwde. Een
boomhakker? In 'Hoge bomen'?  Canvas | dinsdag 22 u.

MANU RICHE «Ik ben hem op het spoor gekomen via een
handelaar in spaanplaten. De houthandel leek me al een rare
business, en Ghislain Libart was mij helemáál onbekend.
Maar bij onze eerste ontmoeting - in een bos in Duitsland
waar hij douglassparren aan het verkopen was aan Chinezen
- was mijn interesse meteen gewekt.
»Libart komt uit een vrij arme familie uit de buurt van
Houffalize. Op zijn veertiende is hij met zijn vader en broers
als boomhakker begonnen, en tegenwoordig vliegt hij als
een echte avonturier de wereld rond. We hebben hem
gevolgd van begin 2008 tot augustus 2009: in Egypte, in de
Landes, in China... Hij is bijna nooit thuis.»
HUMO Eén ding werd me bij het bekijken van het
portret niet duidelijk: is Libart steenrijk of moddert hij
maar wat aan?
RICHE «Het gaat op en neer. Toen we begonnen te filmen,
had hij twee Mercedessen, op het eind alleen nog maar een
Golfje. Maar eigenlijk raakt hem dat niet. Het gaat hem niet
zozeer om het geld, maar om het ondernemen zelf.
Daardoor was het ook een plezier om hem te volgen. Al mijn
andere films gaan over mensen die constant bezig zijn met
strategie, maar Libart hééft helemaal geen strategie: hij wil
gewoon met dat hout bezig zijn, dag en nacht. Zijn eerste
huwelijk is er zelfs aan kapotgegaan. Nu heeft hij een
vriendin uit Madagascar. Daar is blijkbaar versteend hout te
vinden waar een aardige stuiver aan te verdienen valt, dus
dat wil hij nu ook gaan exporteren.»
HUMO Naar zijn tonnetje te oordelen is Libart een bon
vivant. Aan het eind van de film zie je hem - na een
gedenkwaardige Chinese zakenlunch - zowaar naar
buiten waggelen.
RICHE (lacht) «Hij was stomdronken, ja. Door zo vaak naar
China te gaan, is hij een halve Chinees geworden - we
hebben er zelfs aan gedacht om de titel van het portret te
veranderen in 'De mandarijn'. Voor hem én voor ons heeft
de sake rijkelijk gevloeid. En zoals hij zelf zegt: 'Ik zeg nooit
HUMO Net als de Chinezen!



Born in 1964


For the magazine Strip Tease RTBF.

Conversations: 1989 – 13’ 16 mm. Two ladie in a Brussels café, the first takes the tram 26, the other the 81...

La pêche: 1990 – 13’in 16 mm. The story of a showroom and the car seller who dreams of fishing salmon in Scotland…

Les aventures de la famille De Becker: 1991 – 15’ in 16 mm. The story of a Brussels corridor wherein lives a ‘happy family’...

Etat fort civil: 1992 – 15’in 16 mm. The story of the civil servants in the city administration of Brussels.


The Flemish cultural landscape in seven episodes: (RTBF) 1992 – 52’ in 16 mm. The landscape trough portraits of Flemisch artists Wim Vandekeybus, Frie Leysen, Paul Goosens, Paul Bottelberghs, Freddy…

Anvers93: (RTBF/FR3/WDR) 1993 – 40’ in 16 mm. A cultural city ?

De Misantroop: (KVS/VRT) 1994 – 52 ‘in Beta digi. A television essay

Brussels 25 Novembre: 1996 (VRT) – 52’ super 8/betacam. Thes tory of a faits divers.

The Black Star: (NPS/VRT/RTBF/Vlaams filmfonds) 1998 – 52’ super 16.  The story of a Nigerian football player in Belgium.

Welcome to my world: 2000 (VPRO/RTBF/Vlaams filmfonds) – 80’ in super 16.  The story of a king–coach of a small cycling team.

Baudouin I/ Boudewijn I: 2001 (FR3/RTBF) – 52’ in Beta Digi.
The story of King Baudouin as told by himself.

L’Homme qui n’était pas Maigret: 2002/3 (France2-TSR-RTBF) – 50’ in betadigi/16mm. The invention of the author G.Simenon.

The Politician: 2005 Canvas/ VAF ,52’ in HD: The rise and fall of the sociaist leader in Flanders.

The President: 2005 Canvas/VAF, 52’  in HD: A portrait of the president of footballclub Brussels.

The Salesman: 2006 Canvas/ VAF  in HD: A portrait of a big boss in Antwerp ports business.

Ghislain Libart, Bûcheron: 52’: in HD (VAF, VRTcanvas, Comm.française, Simple Production)

Paul Dujardin, the long march: 76’ en 56’ in HD (VAF, RTBF, ARTE Belgique, VRT canvas)

Portrait of a young man as an artist: (VAF/Riche/filmnatie) in co-direction with Renaat Lambeets (camera)
a portrait of Tom Barman, frontman of the popular band Deus.