Photo Credits: Ahmed Kadry
From music to dancing to acting, directing and scriptwriting, Ashraf Hamdi is a living example for having a real diverse range of talents. Because we know what goes through such a talent’s mind must be worth the discovery; we decided to catch up with him and chit-chat about his life and career.
We’ll let you start talking because of course we won’t ask you to define yourself!
I hate when someone asks me to tell them about myself because I believe it would make me look narcissistic. However, I’m always discovering myself, you know, every year I become someone new. Even my ideologies change from year to year. Although I studied dentistry, I knew from the beginning where I was heading to. Who I am; it’s like an evolving journey to me. I like who I have become because it’s serving my art well.
You seem like a diverse person!
True! When I started my career people told me it’s non-preferred to have that diversity, but I never listened to them because deep down I knew it’s what shapes me.
My favorite acting gig!
Yeah it’s obvious! So tell us more about how it happened.
It was after Adam and Gamila that I took a break from acting and decided to direct music videos for budding artists. By that time, my friend, Marwa Gebreel told me that Diab was preparing this movie. I knew I wanted to take a role in it but couldn’t get myself to ask him to choose me. I then decided to text Diab and congratulate him, that’s when he replied offering me a role in the movie and that’s how it all started!
What was your reaction when Clash was not nominated for an Oscar after being selected in the category?
I told Diab that Clash would either make it or break it. I was expecting the Oscars to be honest, but Cannes was a big thing for me! I mean, Clash was the first Egyptian movie to be selected as the opening movie for such a major event!
Do you see yourself directing something like Clash?
Why not? I’m a diverse person. I’ll explore everything and anything.
This diversity seems to serve your work with a great distinction!
To a great extent, yeah!
So let’s move to your framework, what do you think makes your work distinguishable or outstanding?
As a director, I should stylize my film because I believe movies are made to give our minds and souls a break. I also believe that people always strive for inspiration; that’s why I usually focus on the camera movement and the coloring. Especially the coloring, it trims the work! Another thing is that I never give a conclusion or an ending to the story, I just love to lay it out there. I think leaving the audience thinking over and over about the fate of the characters they just left behind in the movie is what I root for.
And concerning the content, is there some sort of a message that you stick to in your work?
Mostly yes. I’m always dissecting and trying to discover two things; difficult love and obsession, obsession about everything.
The “Voice Note” series!
I saw it coming!
What inspired you to create such a splendid lovely series?
It all started when I wanted to create a teaser for my movie with Carmen Bsaibes and I had a lot of unused footage, so I thought why not make use of it! Gradually the picture started coming together, and it looked quite professional so I knew I wanted to share it with people. I finished it and only the voice over was missing, but deep inside I wanted it to be something different than a normal voice over! At that moment my love for people voices through the phone hit me and then the voice note thing came out!
And the storyline?
I can’t say there’s a specific storyline for the series! However it all went around things I felt before or wish I would feel towards someone, they were basically based on my ex -wife.
We were just about to bring this up! Tell us more about your marriage.
Well, she was Turkish and we got married right after graduation. We were young and thought life would work out the way we wanted! Ironically, she didn’t want me to become an actor that’s why it didn’t work out. I’m an artist, consequently I’m a young soul and I’ll always be one. I think an artist’s only way to keep his art surviving is to have this young soul pushing him, so if you’re an artist then you should share your life with one. Even if you’re not an artist, you still need to be inspired!
So you don’t support young marriage?
I definitely don’t!
You seem to be provoked by women, if that’s the correct word, or else you wouldn’t have devoted most of your work for them.
Umm, yeah it’s the correct word. To me, they’re a piece of art and a source of inspiration. I always give women more credit; I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, maybe an indirect feminist is the right phrase, because to me feminism is equality. My mom actually inspired me on how I see women. How I grew up, each stage in my life was affected by a different woman. It didn’t necessarily have to do with love. You know, my mom was a stage, my sister and my ex-wife.
So if you were to choose between directing an Egyptian movie that’d be nominated for an Oscar or directing an ‘okay’ movie starring Keira Knightly?
That’s hard! Shooting Keira would inspire me, but shooting an Oscar nominated film would inspire the world. I’d choose the Oscar nominated movie, because then I’d be able to reach Keira and work with her. It’s more of a two birds one stone move.
As far as we’re concerned, you worked with Hefzy a couple of times! How was it like?
I’ve known him for 12 years. He backed me up in the writing career a lot and I learnt a lot from him. He’s a master in the field now but still is encouraging to me since day one. I respect his vision as a producer, so hopefully when we work together in the future we’ll create something that booms.
We’re eager to know the storyline of the first big movie you’d direct!
Oh! They’re already written! They’re three. One is a fantasy musical. Another one is a romance named “A day and seven colors”. And the third one is one that I shared its trailer on my page under the name “Generation Z”. I’d like to start with the romance one because it’s based on personal experience!
A line or a quote from a movie that left you jaw dropped?
“Don’t let fear become your profession” -Sophie, Breathe in.
The best Egyptian movie from your point of view?
It’s hard to please artists; they tend to be picky, so do you face commitment issues?
If I’m with an artist, commitment wouldn’t be a problem. But apart from that yes.
Do you regret anything that happened in your life?
I thought I did, but looking at everything right now, I don’t think so. Maybe if I had to change something, it would be not joining filmmaking school.
Is there some sort of message or a hidden thought you’d like to share with people and how do you want them to see you?
Achieve your passion; make your passion your career. As to how they see me; I want them to see me as someone who moves something inside them.
So can you mention some movies which inspired you?
Atonement inspired my filmmaking, and Before Sunset sequel inspired my writing. I’d also recommend watching Like Crazy, Breath In, Last Night and Blue Valentine.
Okay, so we decided to play a small game where you get to choose between two things. Cool?
- Theatre or cinema?
I love both! But I’ll go with Cinema.
- Realism or idealism?
That’s tough! Idealism.
- White chocolate or dark chocolate?
- Love or lust?
Love inspires but lust moves me. However I’d go for love.
- Underrated or overrated?
- Tea or coffee?
- Black or white?
With its deeper meaning, I’ll choose White.
- Jazz or hip-hop?
Back in the day I’d say hip-hop, now I go for Jazz.
- Drama or thriller?
- 20’s or 90’s?
70’s, because it’s when colors happened and the free spirited life was created.
- Clubbing or chilling?
- Pink Floyd or The Beatles?
In a dull society, we strive for more artists like Ashraf to brighten it up.