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Leila Kanaan... A Young Director with a Different View

Leila Kanaan is a sensitive, ambitious, daring woman who likes to spend her life recording reality and delivering it to the people in her own perspective. She was born in Saida, then moved to Beirut due to the war, her father is a doctor who remained in the South working during the war. In spite of her young age she has accomplished a lot, she is known for her clips namely “baba feen”, “Mashy Hady”, and her TV commercials the “Clean and Clear” campaign which has captured the interest of the audience in the Middle East. In addition to “The Inner Path” commercial which combats war and violence.
 
Leila won Best Director in this years Middle East Music Award (MEMA 2009). This young director still has plenty to give and loads of dreams to accomplish. Read on to know more about Leila’s story…
 
“I would say my trade mark is simplicity, sensuality and mood creation”
 
What are the circumstances that led you to pursue a directing career?
When I was a child I used to enjoy dancing and Canvas, but my interests changed at the age of 13, when I started meditating in our balcony and gazing at the people and cars that passed-by, trying to envision their stories and their lives. I also became interested in photography, stamps and collecting chocolate wrappers. I used to spend a lot of time watching television, and I loved TEX AVERY cartoon, I also loved reading comic books and received a lot of dancing classes. After I graduated from high school I decided to enroll at the Institute of theatre, audiovisual and cinematographic studies IESAV. During my university years I
took a lot of training as an assistant director, sound technician, camera operator, editing for short films, TV commercials, video clips and documentaries.
 
What was your first film?
My first film was portraying my own personal story in a short film titled “My Father’s House” (Beet Bai), which was a metaphor to my home country which is the people’s shelter, with a Middle Eastern and Oriental style, where you find exaggeration, fear of the war, and total chaos. Recently the film was matched up to Dally painting, Fellini movies and Costarica in the National Film Museum of Potsdam. This film has been appreciated in various international festivals around the world. Afterwards, I directed my first video clip for Lebanese singer Eissa Ghandour “Mansfar” in 2004. I have to say that the world of directing is like a dream.
 
Who helped you and provided backing in your success?
Many people supported me, my mother supported me morally, and my father gave me lots of advices, I was lucky enough to have a very talented and knowledgeable team around me, and I have to thank God for every opportunity I’ve been granted.
 
You have won the Middle East Music Award Best Director for 2009, how do you feel about it?
I can’t describe my feelings about this prestigious award, it means a lot to me. It is the first award in my career as a director. I was so happy when the MEMA team contacted me to notify me about the award. I really couldn’t believe myself, I felt that my hard work throughout the last four years has finally been rewarded, and that I have effectively managed to create a good impression on the audience. I would also like to include that the fact that this award came to me from Egypt, gives it substantial creditability.
 
What are your strongest and weakest points?
It is very difficult for an individual to speak about himself/herself and identify the strong and weak points. However I think my strong points are that I am honest, have a lot of perseverance, hard worker and sensitive. My weak points may be that I am still young, yet have been through a lot of experiences. Sometimes I can be impatient and stubborn, as well as my sensitivity and how it harms me, however I am working on that.
 
How was your experience on the clip which was directed for
an Egyptian singer?
It was great, since Egyptians are incredibly close to the hearts of people and they have a lot of talent in performing.
 
 
Who would you like to direct for? And do you get involved in the style of the singer, look, and staff when you are directing?
Most of the singers that I would like to work with are foreigners such as Leonard Cohen, Cat Power, Carla Bruni, Tom Waits, Norah Jones, Nick Cave, Charlotte Gainsbourg… In the Middle East I would like to create beautiful pictures to the songs of Kazem El Saher, Marcel Khalifa, Ziad Rahabani and Sherine Abd El Wahab. Of course I have a say in the style and staff that work with me, at the end of the day - I am responsible for all the elements that contribute to the success of the entire clip. I choose the settings, clothes and style of lighting used and I do the editing myself so that the clip won’t resemble anything - expect Leila.
 
Who is your idol in your field?
I am inspired by a lot of directors, from the Arab world, I love the movies by Mostafa El Akad, Youssri Nassralah, Abbass Kiyarostamy and Samira Mekhlef, and from the foreigners Sofia Cappola, Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen, Stanley Keboro, and Charlie Chaplin just to name a few…
 
What are your dreams that you want to materialize in the future?
I wish I could have the opportunity to direct an international movie, or a soap opera to represent my own world. I love photography and writing and I desire to publish a book that is a mixture of text and photographs.
 
When will we see Leila directing in Egypt, the Eastern Hollywood?
(Smiling) Soon, Egypt has so many majestic places that hold a great deal of character and history, most of which have their own style that has not been manipulated by man, I hope it will remain this way.
 
Most of your clips have a lot of colors, however your last clip was in black and white, could you explain to us the difference?
The choice of colors does not come haphazardly, for example “Baba feen” and “Mashi Hady” required a lot of bright colors, the former was targeted for children and the latter was a beautiful summer song, therefore they required a lot of vividness. On the other hand, the clip I directed for Karim Wagdy, I wanted to revitalize the reminiscence of Italian Cinema in the sixties which was known for the movies of Sofia Loren, therefore I worked with different colors. The most important thing is to choose the right mood for the clip and the idea.
 
Finally, what would you like to say?
I would like to thank DG Magazine for giving me this opportunity - to allow people to be acquainted with Leila Kanaan through this interview. I also hope that my future work will be liked and appreciated and that I will be able to create an innovative world in each and every clip or movie.
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