Thierry Michel was born in Charleroi in Belgium on 13 October 1952 in an industrial region called “The Black Country”. At the age of 16 he began cinema studies at the Institute of broadcast arts in Brussels. While there he experienced the last student upheavals of 1968. He became one of the leaders of an emerging Walloon cinema movement. His 1982 Chronique d’une saison d’acier (Chronicle of a steel season) is set in the mining and steel region of his childhood. This “factional” film, combining fiction and fact, analyzes the rapid decline of the Walloon steel industry that began in 1974 and the way in which this affected the region. His first feature film Hiver 60 (Winter 60) which tells of the 1960–1961 Winter General Strike in Belgium was made in 1982. The film was entered into the 13th Moscow International Film Festival. He was among the signatories of the Manifesto for Walloon culture in 1983. He again combined fiction and fact with his 1985 Hôtel Particulier (Mansion) about the prison system.
In 1993 Thierry Michel made a film about a scandal that had deeply shaken Belgium: La Grâce Perdue d’Alain Van Der Biest (The fall from grace of Alain Van Der Biest). This tells a story of a senior politician who became involved in corruption and organized crime, his drinking problem and eventual suicide. Michel’s Métamorphose d’une gare (2010) documents the construction of the new station of Guillemins in Liège over a nine-year period. It does not hide the problems and frictions in this huge project, but also draws out the enthusiasm and pride of the builders.