Inside Mecca

A first for television.

A first for television.  

CUT THROUGH the stereotypes, and every nation has an inner life, an equilibrium that is often not reflected in the mainstream media.

National Geographic, the venerable international society that advances social, geographic and scientific knowledge imbued with a spirit of adventure, has been working to look beyond stereotypes.

`Secrets Unveiled' on the NG television channel starts off by opening the normally restricted doors of the holy city of Mecca, on November 2.

"It is a film that shows the real meaning of peace which every religion preaches," says NG photographer Reza, in a chat about the venture of which he is consulting producer.

An appropriate introduction during the holy month, the film portrays the intensity of Mecca through the eyes of three people from South Africa, Malaysia and Texas, who are a study in contrast. They come from different backgrounds, both social and cultural, and are united only by their religious mission.

"It would not normally be possible to enter many of these places in Mecca, as it requires permission from the royal family," explains Reza, about the uniqueness of the NGC film.

The Iran-born, Paris-based photojournalist's extensive work on Saudi Arabia is featured as the cover story of the Society's magazine in its October issue.

It delves into a kingdom that evokes strong feelings, providing a rare photographic insight that scans the lives of the ruler and the ruled.

Also, Reza was among the last journalists to interview the Afghan leader Masood, before he was assassinated.

NGC has lined up other subjects for the eight part `Inside' series, including the Vatican, the White House, Air Force One, the Pentagon and Soviet Circus.

On his own photojournalistic philosophy, Reza says, "Become an ambassador between peoples, and treat the camera as a tool, just as a writer or poet would a pen." Though photography has entered the digital age, he is yet to go `digital', and prefers the `quality' of film cameras.

From G. Ananthakrishnan in Chennai

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