Jean-Michel Arnold

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Jean-Michel Arnold, General Secretary of the Cinémathèque Française, vice President of UNESCO’s IFTC (International Council for Film Television and Audiovisual Communication), founder of the Cinéma du Réel, Director of CNRS Image/Media, General Secretary of RIAVS, and President of CAMERA. Without being a filmmaker, Mr. Arnold has been the instigator of some very important events in the world of cinema.

Early life[edit]

He was the only child of Christine Brisset, an activist known as the “Pasionaria of the Poor”, with a street named in her honour[1] and her life documented on film.[2] His father died around the time of his birth. At the age of 15, he left his home town of Angers and headed for Paris.

There he was befriended by Henri Langlois, founder of the Cinémathèque Française, “one of the most important figures in the history of film”[3] who became his mentor and spiritual father. At the instigation of Langlois, he went out to the newly independent Algeria and helped found the Cinémathèque Nationale Algérienne[4] first with Ahmed Hocine and later with Boudjema Karèche[5] and helped organise the “Rencontres des Cinémas du Monde” at the first Panafrican Cultural Festival in 1969 (the second was forty years later in August 2009).[6]


CNRS Image/Média[edit]

In 1974 the CNRS (the French National Scientific Research Council) appointed him director of a newly formed audiovisual division “CNRSAV” (initially called Service d'étude de réalisation et de diffusion de documents audio-visuels or SERDDAV) and finally simplified to “CNRS Image/Média” which he headed until 2001 and for which he was awarded “La Medaille de Cristal” for his creativity and innovation.[7]

Under his direction it was responsible for the production of hundreds of film productions,[8] TV programs,[9] film expeditions,[10] multimedia packages and seminars[11] dedicated to science and the arts.

He created formal links with La Fémis, The French State Film School whose first President was Jean-Claude Carrière (also President of RIAVS), and with UNESCO's IFTC.

In 1977 together with Jean Rouch he founded the Cinéma du Réel[12]

RIAVS Rencontres Internationales de l’Audiovisuel Scientifique[edit]

In 1976 he created the Rencontres Internationales de l’Audiovisuel Scientifique (RIAVS) an annual event lasting several weeks during which scientists, artists, movie makers, TV producers and the public meet at the Eiffel Tower and UNESCO to celebrate “a débauche of initiatives, projections, discussions and exhibitions”.[13]

As Koïchiro Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO,[14] wrote: “it is a unique initiative supported by UNESCO… which brings together in one place: science, culture, communication and education”

There are special screenings of rare cinema items,[15] Symposia (see pictures on right) and the official Festival program, some of which are detailed below:

  • The International Festival of TV Science Programs

This is the core Festival. It started as a means of bringing together two groups who hardly knew each other, on the one hand the scientists working in their laboratories and on the other the media. It has now grown to become an iconic meeting place at the Eiffel Tower for science and the media.[16]

More than 300 TV production companies from 66 countries in 5 continents submit TV Science programs for several prizes: namely a) the Grand Prix; b) Prix Special du Jury; c) Prix pour l’Imagerie Scientifique; d) Prix Aventures et Decouvertes; e) Prix Science et Societe; f) Prix Sante; g) Prix Jeunesse; h) Prix du Magazine; and i) Mention Speciale du Jury

  • Prix Argos

This is a prize which is awarded each year to those web sites which show startling originality, unpredictability and the ability to create new affinities across continents[17]

  • Prix Jules Verne

This is a prize which is awarded each year to a TV company not for any individual TV program but for their policy towards their viewing public as expressed by the quality of their TV programs overall

  • Prix l’Affiche du Monde

This is a prize which is awarded each year to the best movie produced by a film school (in cooperation with CILECT) and for the best movie by a non-professional (in cooperation with UNICA)


He is President of CAMERA (Conseil Audiovisuel Mondial pour les Etudes et les Réalisations sur l'Art) an organization which promotes creativity, education and culture by means of symposia, production and awards.[18]

CAMERA is on the executive committee of UNESCO’s IFTC and, in coproduction with the French Ministère des Relations Extérieures, it produced a series of movies on “Les peintres cinéastes”.

CAMERA is most celebrated for “Le Prix CAMERA”[19] which is awarded each year at UNESCO to

  • a City
  • a Foundation
  • a Film/TV Production Company
  • a Publisher
  • a Museum

which has shown the most outstanding contribution to Culture and Education

As President of CAMERA he also has the responsibility of advising UNESCO with regard to its initiative to select "Creative Cities of Cinema"[20]

Cinémathèque Française[edit]

He has been associated with the Cinémathèque Française ever since his first meeting with Henri Langlois at the age of 15. He was elected General Secretary in 1981 and has been consistently re-elected since then, working closely with past Presidents, Jean Rouch, Jean-Charles Tacchella, and Claude Berri and with the current President Costa-Gavras.


He was elected President of the International Council for Film Television and Audiovisual Communication (IFTC) at UNESCO in 2000 and is currently its vice President. The IFTC is UNESCO’s advisory body on all matters concerned with film, television and new media. It has functioned for over 50 years as an independent NGO in official formal associate relations with UNESCO, based at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.


  1. ^ Dictionnaire des rues “Elle apparaît comme un recours, une "passionaria" face aux problèmes criants de la misère matérielle de l'après-guerre
  2. ^ L'institut de cinématographie scientifique A portrait of Christine Brisset, an extraordinary activist who became "La Pasionaria of the poor" after taking command of a small army of volunteers
  3. ^ NY Times 12 October 2005 cited in the film review of the documentary "The Phantom of the Cinémathèque"
  4. ^ ["Algerie, Les Années Pieds-Rouges (1962-1969)" by Catherine Simon published by La Découverte 2009 ISBN 978-2-7071-5435-4] see Chapter Six (pages 133-154) titled "Quel cinéma!"
  5. ^ The Site of the African Federation of Film Critics “En 1967 Boudjema Karèche venait de terminer sa licence en droit quand Ahmed Houcine, le père de la Cinémathèque d'Alger, créée en 1964 avec le concours de Jean Michel Arnold, lui a proposé de prendre la relève”. Also “. C'était les années où, comme nous l'a confié Boudjemaâ Karèche, Henri Langlois, fondateur de la Cinémathèque Française, était l'invité régulier de celle d'Alger”
  6. ^ Panaf 2009 Site
  7. ^ CNRS Site Description of the merit award “Medaille de Cristal”
  8. ^ Site "Le corps fragmenté" a film produced by CNRS Images-Media
  9. ^ CNRS Video Library Produced by CNRS Images Média and broadcast on the TV channel "La Cinquième"
  10. ^ Yahoo Movies "Cocorico Monsieur Poulet" (1977) filmed by Jean Rouch, produced and distributed by SERDDAV
  11. ^ CNRS Site See page 3 for example of workshops and seminars organised by CNRS Image/Média
  12. ^ Ethnographic Film Site Biography of Jean Rouch
  13. ^ Newspaper « Liberation » 31 October 2003“A l'image de leur créateur, l'exubérant Jean-Michel Arnold, ces Rencontres internationales de l'audiovisuel scientifique auront irradié quelques semaines durant aux quatre coins de France, depuis le premier étage de la tour Eiffel jusqu'aux réseaux Web en passant par quelques dizaines de musées dans six villes de province”
  14. ^ CNRS November 2006 See page 18 for full article “Dialogue et Conscience” by the Director General of UNESCO
  15. ^ Le Nouvel Observateur 2005 “Annick Demeule et Jean-Michel Arnold, animateurs de la manifestation, présentent une fascinante et réjouissante série de dessins animés et documentaires pédagogiques, ainsi que les premiers films Gaumont”
  16. ^ Science for All Interview with Jean-Michel Arnold 6 November 2001
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ CAMERA site at UNESCO
  19. ^ Photography Magazine September 2001 “Le plus important prix de l’UNESCO, le prix CAMERA a été décerné à TASCHEN en tant que meilleur éditeur d’art international”
  20. ^ UNESCO Creative Cities “Appointed cities are entitled to use UNESCO’s name and logo under the terms and conditions of UNESCO’s graphic charter”.