As per the words of avid Egyptian content creator Hady Bassiony, creator of popular YouTube channel “The Final Review”, there are some directors who create cinematic masterpieces that win multiple awards in festivals but barely get watched in the cinema while other directors who know how to please the everyday crowd and get cinemas packed with viewers. Now imagine a director who nails both, someone who is capable of nabbing the awards while also impressing the everyday crowd, that is exactly what Sandra Nashaat and her wide plethora of films are capable of.
Egyptians adore her films while at the same time, each of her cinematic creations exude a level of artistry and expertise that amazes film critics and experts. But that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this renowned and innovative director; to truly appreciate her work, we’ve put together all the reasons why we think she is a phenomenal director.
Her Gripping Filming Style
From the moment Nashaat took on her first feature film “Mabrouk and Bulbul” back in 1998, she made it clear that she was set out to do things differently and change the narrative towards how a story can be told visually. Only 28 at the time, the young director was adamant on challenging herself in a film that should have felt intimidating especially with it starring some of the biggest legends in Egyptian cinema like Yehia El Fakharany but that didn’t stop Nashaat from taking the project head on.
She did not just want it to be shot like any other film but instead decided to apply one of the most difficult filming techniques to the entirety of the feature. Uninterrupted, lengthy shots without jump cuts or a typical montage style of film making was her go-to move throughout the film. Imagine instead of cutting from one scene to another to allow for the flow of the narrative, she instead would have the camera continuously follow characters like El Fakharany and showcase a transition from a long shot to a close up all in one take, without interruption. It was ingenious and made the film quite special, ushering in Nashaat as a innovative maverick when it comes to filmmaking.
Beyond lengthy one takes, Nashaat also knew how to film scenes in snappy, quick successions and in that way, she’d communicate a lot of information to the viewers in a very short time span. It was her signature style and became a prominent fixture in all her films including the 2001 timeless comedy that truly shot her to fame, “Thieves in KG2”. Starring Karim Abdel Aziz as the crafty thief Hassan who by circumstance had to be responsible for the daughter of his friend, the film had that fiery quick air that really shone through in many of the scenes. Nashaat would for example have the camera bounce from item to item to convey a certain message like her quick succession of shots that show Hassan masterfully prepping for a heist with the camera bouncing from a lockpick to a safe in rapid succession. In those few seconds, we immediately understand that Hassan is a good thief and that is what makes Nashaat’s filmmaking exceptional.
Showcasing Stars in Unconventional Roles
When thinking of Egyptian cinema, talented gems like Mona Zaki, Nour and Ghada Adel are easily remembered for dominating the field with every role they would take on. Their popularity and sheer talent have become stamped as essential fixtures of Egyptian cinema but when it came to Nashaat, she knew how to take them a step further in their career journey, immersing them in new and riveting roles.
With famous stars like Nour, Nashaat completely plucked her out of her comfort zone by having the actress transform into a sly and mysterious character for her role in the suspense-ridden masterpiece “Private Alexandria”. Viewers were shocked to see Nour in slick gelled back hair, gazing at the camera with her smoky eyes and big red lips, a true transformation. Even Adel, who played the titular character Sahar, took a step away from her light-hearted and comedic roles and ventured into her very first dark role in a thriller.
Beyond changing the dynamic of what the actresses can do behind the camera, she was also responsible for spearheading their careers. Nour’s role in “Private Alexandria” was how the Lebanese actress truly shot to fame and cemented herself as a gripping and dynamic talent. With Mona Zaki, her shot to fame goes further back to Nashaat’s first dip into the world of cinematography. During film school, Nashaat’s graduation project was a short black & white film starring Mona Zaki and that was the very first time the actress was seen behind the camera.
Her Raw Portrayal Of The Egyptian Community
From comedic flicks to heavy thrillers, Nashaat proved she can do it all but that didn’t quench her thirst to push beyond what she was already capable of and that was when she stepped away from narrative-driven feature films and ventured into the world of short documentaries. Taking her handy camera, hopping on a bus and venturing into the streets of Egypt, Nashaat began to document the raw, daily on goings of life in Egypt for her first documentary dubbed “I Dream”. Unconventional in style, she would travel to every place imaginable in the country whether its the endless fields of its countryside or the crowded streets of its most vibrant cities, and would ask the people a simple question “What is your dream?”.
In her search for answers, her determination was uncanny and her approach unorthodox. If the person she was interviewing was quick in their pace, she would quicken her pace to match their rhythm. Her voice would boom out so people can hear her and she’d be so sharp, nothing would go unmissed, she would notice everything and catch it on camera. What resulted from that project was a film that was so natural and real, watching it made audiences grasp the true essence of life in Egypt and of its people. The innovative director wanted to place a lens on everyday Egyptians and make them the hero of her story and she did so with an unmatched flair and aptitude.
Today, her reputation remains unmatched and her films continue to be adored by millions. Many crave for Nashaat to once again masterfully orchestrate a cinematic masterpiece akin to her previous work and bring back that unique style of excellent direction and cinematography. Who knows, she might surprise us and release another one of her timeless classics but till then, we’ll once again re-watch and enjoy everything from her hilarious comedy “Thieves in KG2” to her riveting crime flick “Private Alexandria”.