Mountainfilm: Reza & “Je Suis Charlie”

Mountainfilm: Reza & “Je Suis Charlie”

Philanthropist, idealist, humanist, architect by training and a globe-trotting heavyweight champion of photojournalism – he is a National Geographic fellow whose images have graced many covers –  the man known simply as Reza was an honored guest of Mountainfilm in Telluride last May. His subject, ironically in the face of the recent events in France, was “The Power of Image for Social Change.” Only the images in question were not cartoons, but photographs and video. Reza teaches challenged young people how to testify about their lives and heal through creative expression using these mediums. (For more, including a podcast With Reza, go here.

In a recent email, here is what Reza had to say about events in his adopted country and the need to heal through ongoing affirmative action.



Resistants armed only with their pens and freedom of thought have been assassinated others horribly wounded. Today the scars are felt in our souls, our laughter, our spirit, our liberty and our humanity.

I was on the point of leaving for India when I learned of this tragedy. As I flew over Afghanistan, a memory came to mind. Georges Wolinsky had come to Kabul to the Aina Center for Free and Independent Media to defend the very idea of this freedom to speak out, write, draw, and photograph, along with Alain Mingam, Olivier Weber, and Brigitte and Alain Genestar. They were all gathered together around the newspaper published by the center, the Kabul News.

Today, we must continue to resist, collectively, nationally, internationally, and fraternally, in the name of the common values which make France a land of liberty, values which must strive to make the world a  place of peace.

I am reminded of a passage from Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.” This was the reason behind my exile to France, a land of hope which welcomed me, when my photography in Iran had resulted in threats to my life.

It is still hard to imagine, thirty-five years later, on this land which has also shaped me, that such guarantors of freedom of expression, as well as those who protected them, like the police officer Ahmed, could be executed.

It is still hard to accept that the fundamental values of this country in turn can be thusly attacked, a country that has helped me to create free and independent media as far away as Afghanistan, through the training of journalists.

I have just arrived in India, which is referred to as the largest democracy in the world. The land of Gandhi, another resistant, the apostle of speaking, teaching and acting in non-violence.

Yes, today we must pursue this resistance together, in France but also throughout the world, in tribute to the twelve resistants who died on this 7th day of January, in tribute to those who continue to fight for the freedom of thought and expression, so that the future of our world can be more… human.

Reza, in checked scarf, second from the left standing in front of one of his photographs.

Reza, in checked scarf, second from the left standing in front of one of his photographs.

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