Already at a young age, Paul Meyer (Belgium, 1920-2007) was socially engaged and discovered the workers’ struggle. In 1937, he joined the resistance against Francisco Franco in Spain and afterwards the resistance during the Second World War. He worked as a director and set designer for various theatres, from children’s theatre to militant action groups. Afterwards, he joined Flemish public television and in 1955 he directed the television film Klinkaart. In this film he denounces the abuse of women in a brick factory. The film causes a scandal in Belgium, but becomes a success abroad. Later, Meyer receives a public contract to make a propaganda short film about the “successful” integration of the children of the first generation of immigrant workers. Déjà s’envole la fleur maigre (1960), however, becomes an experimental full-length film, in which he describes, in neo-realistic style, the fate of an Italian family in the Borinage, without covering up the less attractive facts. In spite of the international recognition, the film was hardly shown at the time and was well hidden away by the government. Meyer was even accused of misusing public money and had to repay debts during the rest of his life. In 1994, after thirty years, the film was finally released in France. In the meantime, he worked with his partner Anne Michotte on a screenplay for a final feature film and in 2000, the shooting of La mémoire aux allouettes began. After finishing more than half of the film’s shooting days, Meyer was forced to quit after a difficult production process.
Poetically and expertly, Meyer films not only the misery and poverty, but also the moments of joy of the miners’ families in the Belgian region of the Borinage.