It’s Friday evening and you are headed to the cinema to watch the latest Hollywood film release. There’s going to be action, lots of explosions and scenes that are completely disassociated from reality. Yet, when it’s all over, you shrug your shoulders and think to yourself, well that was all right. Though big blockbusters are entertaining, they often fail to explore the reality of being a human being.
One burly, bearded filmmaker in Hollywood is veering away from the explosive money making scenes we saw coming out of the infamous studios. Though his looks have landed him such roles as “The Iranian” in NCIS: Los Angeles and “Pimp” in the upcoming season of True Detective, it is his role as an award-winning filmmaker that has driven Hassan Said to success.
“A great deal of my inspiration comes from ordinary people’s stories,” he told bazaar. “When I first got drawn to the craft, I was very inspired by Italian, French, Russian, Mexican and other international cinema, besides Hollywood. They added more flavors and subtext to human emotion than most Hollywood films.”
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Hassan dedicated his life to creating art that spoke volumes through one story. Whether it was a commercial he took on to pay the bills, or a film he poured all his resources into, every piece Hassan produced was an anecdote to human life. His dedication to creating a narrative that shed light on our similarities as humans has been recognized with more than half a dozen awards. Every one of his seven films has been featured in a renowned film festival, and he attributed his success to his focus on telling a very real story.
His experience living away from home has proven challenging and difficult at times for Said. As a filmmaker he embraced these challenges and channeled them into his work.
“While outside the Arab world the competition is far more fierce,” he said. “It’s far more challenging to break in or be given a chance as it takes a lot more years, and years of work in the bottom to make your way up.”
Yet Said appreciated the benefits of hard labor, and the privileges it offered him. He worked with A-list celebrities like Sean Penn, James Franco, Clint Eastwood and Vince Vaughn. Yet, he has gone beyond the confines of the Hollywood haven in California and created movies that have screened in the UK, German, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Denmark and South Africa in almost as many languages.
We got a private screening at bazaar of his most recent film Sal y Limon (Salt and Lemon). The Spanish short explored the passion of a relationship when it first started and the pain when it ended. Through a letter the male lead read to his former lover, we heard his anguish in loosing her and the too late realization of his contribution to her distance from him. As the voice slipped deeper and deeper into depression, the scenes played out their relationship as it spirals into a series of fights and hatefulness.
The film, recently screened in Los Angeles California, was extremely well received. For Hassan his success in film, photography and art boils down to one thing: “to simply express one’s place in the world and do it for the love of the craft,” he said. “It’s the hardest job I have ever had and the one I appreciate the most. It’s a long road of uncertainty in comparison to a lot of other work fields. That’s why I chose not to be a doctor, or lawyer or engineer though. So I can do something I love. Even if that requires me at times to not afford to eat.“
Hassan’s Show Reel:
The first cosmopolitan city: Alexandria, Egypt.
Where is most of your family?
Mostly in Egypt.
What were the circumstances under which you left your home country?
I was 16, I didn’t want to leave but my parents felt that I had to leave Egypt or else I’ll just be a carbon copy of a spoiled rotten brained individual that I could’ve grown to be…Well, I was a troublemaker.
Have you always wanted to live abroad?
No, but as I grow older, I appreciate the experience that it brought, helping me to evolve into more than just a person with a singular view.
How long will you stay abroad?
Who knows? I am not planning on staying in one place as I am pushing to do films in Egypt, Africa, Europe. So if I am still alive, I won’t just be in one place.
Where else have you lived?
New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
What is your favorite thing about where you live?
The fact that I can be or think or believe whatever it is I want. Honestly, after traveling to various countries and continents, it doesn’t get better than California.
What is the worst thing about where you live?
The lack of opportunities and support of a wide range of arts and the ability to survive as an artist. Plus the taxes are too damn high.
What do you miss most about home?
I miss the idea of home or what, to me, home represents. With time, this is changing. I miss my family, the familiar places and my childhood. Today home is not what home was to me. It’s a different planet that I am an alien to.
If you could take one thing from home (a place, a person, an attitude, a belief) and place it where you are, what would it be?
Nothing, cause then I would alter the reality that I love about my home.
How often do you return home?
Once in a blue moon, it’s not constant.
Where will you eventually retire?
In a place where its primitive, away from politics, people and noise, with some roosters, cows, farms and a beach.
When I die, I will…
Perish, and it won’t matter because the years I live in this world are insignificant to the infinite time our world existed and will keep existing in.