'To get rid of the walls of fear and hatred'... (from 'Face2Face' in Geneva)

©JR - Face2Face

The other day, I read an ad on Facebook. It was about casting in a movie set in Bible times. It said something like this: ‘If you look Jewish or Middle Eastern... please apply for casting.’

I couldn’t help having a good laugh not about the ad because it is obvious you need to hire Jewish and/or Middle Eastern looking people if you are planning on shooting a movie set in Bible times.

I laughed because I know the young man who put up the ad. He’s my nephew. He is a very nice and sweet person and felt kind of apologetic about his ad on Facebook.

Why should he feel apologetic? Because it is not politically correct to mention how people may look because it will make them different from others? It only was a matter of looks though.

Being a photographer, I’m very interested by other photographers’ works. A few years ago I discovered a great photographer. His name is JR. Yes, plain JR.

I hope you’ve heard his name because his work is extremely humanist and committed. He is a photographer but could also be called a street artist. Most of his projects are made of huge pictures he glues on walls.

The project the ad brought to my mind is called ‘Face2Face’.

JR went to Palestine and Israel and took pictures of people with a 28mm lens (which allows the photographer to be very close to his subject). People with the same trade and paired. A rabbi, an imam and a priest. Two actors, one Jewish and one Palestinian, etc. His point was that Jews and Palestinian look alike and therefore are not this different and should be living peacefully. Well, it sounds a little bit simplistic there. But it really is a very humanist project.

The pictures are indeed surprising but you feel JR’s unconditional love for those people, Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Then he enlarged the pictures quite a lot and he went back to Israel and Palestine and very illegally pasted them on walls in 7 cities. People ended up loving his manifesto. Leaders may not have liked them but who cares? Palestinians and Israelis loved the project. All over the world, people loved 'Face2Face'.

Didn't the great Abraham Lincoln declare: 'Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish'?

Here are links to videos about this particular work. Incredibly interesting. (They are in French but with English subtitles.)

'Face2Face' trailer  and 'Face2Face' à Genève

Now I’ll tell you why my nephew’s note really made me laugh.

While I was growing up, my mother repeatedly said that I looked negroid with my big mouth (no pun intended), etc.

Well, believe it or not, I loved it. I loved thinking I was looking different. Not many people walked up to me and said: ‘Which part of Africa are you from?’ Actually nobody ever asked me so I guessed it wasn’t true after all. But I sure thought my friend Lucie from Cameroon was extremely beautiful. I even was a little bit envious!

Then I met Popeye. When I first saw him, I thought he was Spanish which he's not but one of his grandmothers had distant Italian roots.

We got married and made lots of friends. Some of them were Jewish.

This is when it all started. We were invited to parties at their homes. There would be always be someone coming up to Popeye: ‘You are Jewish, aren’t you?’ Well, no. ‘But you look Jewish.’

So we got used to his Jewish side.

Then we went to Morocco. Things started being really, really weird as soon as we landed in Marrakesh. There were two lines: tourists and Moroccans. We were in the tourist line when the customs guy yelled something in Arabic at Popeye, showing him the Moroccan line.

Popeye had to produce his very Frenchy-French passport to get the right to come back to the tourist line. (Same thing happened when we left Morocco. By then we were used to it.)

The taxi drivers would always end up telling him: ‘You don’t speak Arabic and you married a French woman...’ (with a ‘Shame on you’ innuendo.)

To be fair to my dubious African ancestry, I have to add that while he was working with some Indian businessmen, he was asked: ‘You are Indian, aren’t you?’

Our son, Swee’ Pea, better known as JC, has been going through life with the same advantages over people who do not exhibit characteristic features. Characteristic features? What am I talking about?

He was 12 when he was asked by his music teacher: ‘You’re so much like me. Who’s black in your family? Your mom or your dad?’ (My mother was probably right after all.)

It happened to him again and again, in Paris. ‘You are of mixed race, aren’t you?’

Then one night, we did have fun together even though it was a very sobering experience.

He’d been studying very hard, so hard that he didn’t even find time to shave. Then time for the entrance examinations he was taking. Time to shave.

So I started with a very tired bearded 19 years old boy. You'll notice his curly hair - a sure sign he's got African roots.

Then we decided to go to a yeshiva to meet a very serious scholar.   

And we finished the trip through our multiple faces experience in the 'subway' with a face most people wouldn't like to meet late at night... A frightening Arabic immigrant living in a run-down suburban area.

There were other faces but they are not relevant here!

A few years later though, he came back from Austin, Texas as a real cowboy. (Not too real after all.)

Amazing how a beard, one hat or a hood made all the difference in the world!

All human beings look alike in some ways and we have more things in common than we realize.

Of course, we are also different. This is what makes life thrilling if... if we accept our differences, respect them and even end up liking them. Life will be a lot easier as soon as the 'walls of fear and hatred' will be down for good.

Then my dear nephew won't feel bad about casting 'jewish and middle eastern looking' people!

All my deepest gratitude to JR for the incredible work he's been carrying on in a world so filled with violence.

And a thousand thanx to my son for his ever enduring patience. It's not easy to live around a photographer.

*Good Luck, and Good Night*


Layla said...

Your nephew's project is genius! It's pretty amazing how we as human's have so much more in common than we think.

Also is that a picture of you? You are stunning!

Myrna said...

I love what you write, Marie. Thank you for always sharing wonderful stories and ideas. :o)

JC said...

During my trip to Istanbul everybody would just start talking to me in Turkish. And still be confused at my embarrassed smile and blank stare in return...