Award-winning Egyptian cinematographer Ahmed Al Morsy is behind some of the last decade's most acclaimed Egyptian films, as well as some of Egyptian cinema 's biggest commercial successes.
He dazzled audiences with Marwan Hamed's "El-Feel El-Azraq" (The Blue Elephant), the Ahmed Mourad screen adaptation which broke box office records in Egypt, and wowed critics with Daoud Abdel Sayed's "Rasayel El-Bahr" (Messages from the Sea), which was Egypt's official submission to the 2011 Academy Awards for the best foreign language Oscar.
After more than 20 years of learning from some of the greatest directors in Egyptian cinema's history such as Youssef Chahine and Yousry Nasrallah, crossing genres and favoring innovative filming techniques, Al-Morsy has become well-known for his remarkable range and experience.
The cinematographer is now working on two new projects with Hamed and Mourad, "Ma La Ta'refoh A'n Bahyea" (What You Don't Know About Baheya) and the screen adaptation of Mourad's "Torab El-Mas" (Diamond Dust). Morsy told StepFeed about his new films, his film-making process and his take on the future of Egyptian cinema.
You’re now working with Hamed and Mourad on two new projects, what made you decide to work with the same team again?
One of the most important elements of success in the film industry is the careful selection of each element, beginning with the script, the director, who has the most important role introducing the piece of work through his vision and point of view, and the production company and how they pay attention to other details of the film.
I see that the crew of "The Blue Elephant" is a distinctive, sophisticated and highly flexible crew. There was understanding and harmony, which led to the success of the film, in addition to being a friend of director Marwan Hamed since college as we worked together many times and I enjoy working with him.
Ahmed Mourad also is a sophisticated and outstanding writer who always looks up to other cultures and studies cinematography, the thing that we can clearly figure out from his writings as he cares too much about the visual aspects.
What can viewers expect to see in "Torab El-Mas" and "Ma La Ta’refoh A’n Baheya"?
It is a big challenge for filmmakers to work on an adaptation of a novel as the audience already read the novel and have their own personal high expectations, which may be inconsistent with the film.
Therefore, I try to stick to the spirit of the novel and express through the image on the status and type of the film in an honest and sophisticated way at the same time to achieve, at the end, a serious film, which respects the culture of the audience and their own vision for the film.
What is it about your work in "El-Feel El-Azrak: and:“Rasayel El-Bahr" that made the cinematography shine?
Both of "The Blue Elephant" and "Messages from the Sea" are extraordinary films, which occur in special and different circumstances in terms of the plot, events, characters and places. Therefore, they give us a different visual from the other types of films.
On the other hand, when there are more crises and conflicts in the film, that requires us to visually express this case in all its forms and reflect it appropriately and different from any other ordinary film. The more simple, honest and logical the expressive solutions are, the more there will be understanding and enjoyment for the audience. I think that this is what happened in these two films.
How do you usually prepare for the production of a film?
I firstly get to know the script by reading it in a very neutral way without imagining how it will be on the screen. Then I set meetings with the director to know his vision for the film and determine the initial lines of the film. Then, we read together the entire script and discuss the smallest details, events, drama, special moments, editing and soundtracks. As a result, I can have an initial idea of the spirit of the film and start to develop a detailed plan of my own vision of the film.
What is the greatest inspiration that helps you in your artistic process?
One of the most inspiring things to me is observing all the things my eyes can see all the time, including the events and moments that pass by me and this helps in flourishing my visual imagination and putting many assumptions and different challenges in front of me all the time, which helps when retrieving my memory in the right time.
Which film do you feel like you’re most proud of?
I am very proud of "Messages from the Sea" because it is considered as the beginning of a new phase for me in the film industry, in addition to the great pleasure to work with the great director, Dawood Abdel Sayed.
Also, I’m very proud with "The Blue Elephant" as it portrays an achievement for me in film-making, I enjoyed working with Marwan Hamed, and this film has had a significant impact on the film market and on our understanding as filmmakers for what kind of films the audience respects.
What is the most important lesson that you’ve learned about cinema after all these years in the industry?
I’ve learned that preparing for the work and diligence in the time before filming are the most important things. Filming is only the last phase, and the simplicity of expression is the key to good work.
What are your thoughts on the future of Egyptian cinema?
I am very optimistic about the future of Egyptian cinema and I think that we have the flexibility and diversity in all of our films, in addition the technical development in favor of freedom of creativity.
I’m also very optimistic with the recent films including "Nawara," "Hepta" and "Clash," which took part in the Official Competition of the Cannes Film Festival. I see a new generation of filmmakers who are very distinguished in various fields, and I’m sure that they will add a lot to the industry in the near future.