Looking for Dragone

Manu Bonmariage


a film by Manu Bonmariage in coproduction with VRT-Canvas, RTBF, Riche, Riche & Riche with support from Flanders Audiovisual Fund

The story of Franco Dragone, who put his small Belgian town of La Louvière on the world map by becoming the world’s most famous big show art director…

LOOKING FOR DRAGONE is the in-depth portrait of the man behind the concept of nouveau cirque, the man who created
the look and feel of the Cirque du Soleil, and who wove together fantasy worlds that have captured the imaginations of audiences all around the world with Nouvelle Expérience (1990), Saltimbanco (1992), Alegria (1994), to name but a a few.
His reputation is unprecedented worldwide in the art of show business : Franco Dragone.

For over a year, the infamous Belgian documentary director
Manu Bonmariage followed every footstep, every movement, every mood swing of this formidable show director. From Las Vegas to Hong Kong, from Macao to …La Louvière, Franco Dragoneʼs Belgian hometown that now hosts the Dragone laboratory for his creations : Céline Dionʼs tour “A New Day”, Steve Wynnʼs “Le Rêve” staged in Las Vegas, “Othello, le passeur", a show dedicated to La Louvière and through which Dragone pays hommage to the region in which he settled in his childhood with his family of italian working class immigrants.
Manu Bonmariage follows the progression of the show “Othello, le passeur”, from the very first rehearsal to its first performance onstage, revealing Franco Dragoneʼs unique and impossible character, his sense of perfectionism and his hot-blooded temperament. This film is a wrestling match between two directors of exceptional talent and of unpredictable temperament

DOCVILLE. international Documentary Festival Leuven, belgium 2010,
FESTIVAL DES FILMS DU MONDE, Montreal, Canada, 2009



WITH Franco Dragone

Edwige Baily Desdémone, Thierry Herman Roderigo

Dieudonné Kabongo Othello, Karine Kapinga Bianca

David Kazembe l'ombre, Sylvie Landuyt Emilia

François Sikivie Iago, Dominique Thomas Lodovico

Arieh Worthalter Cassio







Documentary unmasks and demystifies visionary Cirque creator

By BILL BROWNSTEIN, The Gazette, August 30, 2009

Franco Dragone has altered the boundaries of theatre. The visionary
creator and director behind a dozen Cirque du Soleil productions -
Saltimbanco, Mystère, Alegria, Quidam, O and La Nouba among them -
Dragone dreams in three dimensions.

Dragone brought an avant-garde element to Céline Dion's A New Day in
Vegas. He has had ballet dancers bring new meaning to underwater
erotica in La Rêve, a non-Cirque revue also staged in Vegas.

But there is another side to the man who has had contortionists
contorting body parts never contorted before in mega-glam, mega- budget

Dragone feels a huge debt of gratitude to the small Belgian
working-class town that welcomed his Italian immigrant family when he
was just a kid.

Dragone's base of operations is now La Louvière, Belgium, an area once
rich in steel and coal mines, but now experiencing hard times and high
unemployment. He also seeks to bring some world-class culture to the
place by staging a surreal take on Othello.

But while he wishes to eschew the glitz so indigenous to his Vegas/
Cirque du Soleil offerings, Dragone is no less a hard-driving
perfectionist in breathing life into Othello than he was in O.

Though most concur Dragone is one of the most creative souls in the
universe, consensus is that he is also one of the most complex.

Manu Bonmariage, a fellow Belgian and documentary director, had set out
to unmask and demystify the man in Looking for Dragone, which makes its
local debut Tuesday at the Montreal World Film Festival.

And he succeeds. What transpires is a fascinating, warts-and-all peek into the inner workings of the dynamo that is Dragone.

Bonmariage spent two months tailing Dragone, from Las Vegas to La
Louvière to Macao. The gloss of Las Vegas is much in evidence. But it's
the grit of La Louvière that stands out most.

Bonmariage is on hand from the get-go as Dragone mounts Othello, Le
Passeur in La Louvière. It's a challenge. Dragone has high expectations
from his charges. They rebel against his modernist, Vegas-like
approach. He is undaunted. Ever the taskmaster, he brings his actors to
tears in conveying his vision. This is the sort of behind-the-scenes
interplay that rarely surfaces. But Dragone and his cast are only too
willing to share their feelings with Bonmariage, who was also the doc's
cameraman. It all makes for most

compelling and instructive viewing. While Dragone may have strong
socialist leanings, he makes no bones about trying to inject a little
capitalism into economically depressed La Louvière. His mantra is:
Profits create investment and employment.

So while he wants to bring a little theatre to the town, he also plans
on making his Othello a financial success. Unlike most artistic
visionaries, Dragone believes culture and commerce can co-exist - quite

Dragone remains surprisingly unaffected by the excesses to which he has
been exposed in Vegas. He appears totally devoted to his wife and young
son, to whom he imparts this message: "Without love, there is no life."
It goes without saying that the same applies to no life without dreams
in the Dragone home.

Bonmariage has long been intrigued by Dragone. "He is such a unique
individual," he says, in Montreal for the doc's festival debut. "He is
a man of the people who never changed in spite of becoming one of the
biggest figures on the world stage. He had dreams and he followed
through on them. Yet he never turned his back on his community. His
concern for his fellow man far outweighs his desire for fame and
fortune." Bonmariage admits he's in awe when perusing Dragone's CV As
one of Dragone's friends, the

head of the Belgian Socialist party, mentions in the doc: "If I were to
read his resumé, we'd be here all night." But Bonmariage feels
Dragone's gift is in having brought a little culture to the masses as
well as the elite.

"There is no question that he is tough on his actors and collaborators,
but he has a vision of what he wants to create and he won't compromise
on that level," Bonmariage notes. "But that doesn't mean he's a tyrant.
He's simply a passionate man." As is rather evident in the doc, Dragone
gave Bonmariage carte blanche in shooting.

"I was very clear with him," Bonmariage says. "I told him my goal was
not to make a movie about a saint, but rather just to make a movie
about a man. Which is precisely what he wanted, too." Though Dragone
had no say in the film's final cut, Bonmariage screened it for him
first. So how did Dragone feel about the doc? "He told me that if he
didn't like it, he would simply say: 'Thank you and goodbye.' But that
if he did like it, we would eat fine Italian cuisine and drink
champagne all night long." Dragone must have given the flick two thumbs
up. The two ended up eating fine Italian food and knocking back the
champers all night long.

Looking for Dragone screens Tuesday at 9:30 p.m., Thursday at 11 a.m.
and Friday at 2:40 p.m. at the Quartier Latin, 350 Émery St.



Born in Chevron, Belgium, on 29th march 1941
Graduate of Communications sciences (IHECS)
Cameraman - DOP for fiction and Tv-series.
Cameraman/director for the RTBF (Belgian national broadcast) since 1966
Professor ‘direct cinéma’ and documentary at IAD university (Louvain-La-Neuve) from 1969
to 2004.
Documentary film director (RTBF) and independent cinematographer with « Azimut
Production ». Workshop professor "Acteur face caméra" at the summer academy of Neufchâteau
Seminar leader « Réel et représentation » at the Michel de Montagne university of Bordeaux


1979 | HAY PO L'DJOU avec les derniers mineurs de Wallonie
Grand Prix de la critique TV 1980
Prix Jeune Talent, Province de Liège
1980| C’ETAIT L’BON TEMPS  avec Steve Houben, Guy Cabay  et les autres

Dans la série UN HOMME, UNE VILLE  (RTBF Liège)
1980 | MEETING POINT avec Jean-Luc Godard
1980 | RUE DE L'AMOUR DES AMIS avec Hugo Pratt
1981 | PARIS POUR LE REVE avec J-M Folon, Michel Legrand et Yves Montand
1981 | PARRIGATO TOKYO avec Julos Beaucarne
1982 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK avec Michel Legrand

Pour le magazine À SUIVRE - C'EST A VOIR (RTBF Bruxelles)

1983 | AVOIR 20 ANS EN PRISON (coproduction CBA)
1983 | DOKTA MEDOKO (moyen métrage au Cameroun 55’)
1983 | APPELEZ-MOI MAITRE (court métrage)
1983 | LA VIE  CONTINUE    Sélection INPUT 1983
1984 | MOSAÏQUE (moyen métrage 52’)


 Mention spéciale au Festival de Nyon 1986
1986 | TWI-WARA
1990 | BABYLONE   long métrage de fiction pour le cinéma

LONGS METRAGES  (coproduction)

1979 | HAY POL D'JOU    Grand Prix de la critique 1980
1980 | DU BEURRE DANS LES TARTINES (coproduction CBA)
Grand Prix du Festival de NYON 1981
Prix du meilleur FILM SOCIAL
Antenne de Cristal 1981
1983 | J'OSE (coproduction CBA)
Prix du meilleur FILM SOCIAL, Sélection INPUT
1984 | MALAISES (coproduction WIP)
Sesterce d'argent au festival de NYON 1985
1987 | ALLO POLICE (coproduction CBA)    
Mentions spéciales, jury international et jury œcuménique, NYON 1987
Mention spéciale du jury FILMER A TOUT PRIX  1987
Sélection TREMPLIN, Festival de BRUXELLES 1987
Sélection INPUT 1988
Sélection PRIX ITALIA 1988
Sélection 1ère BIENNALE EUROPEENNE de LYON 1988
Sélection LE DOCUMENTAIRE SE FETE (Montréal) 1988
1992 | LES AMANTS D'ASSISES (coproduction WIP)
Prix spécial du jury PRIX ITALIA 1992
Sélection INPUT 1992 (Baltimore)
Prix SACD pour la meilleure création audiovisuelle 1992
Antenne de Cristal 1992
Joseph Plateau Award : Best Television Film 1991-1992 (Gand)
Prix du Meilleur Documentaire aux 7es Rencontres Européennes de Télévision à REIMS
1993 | TH