About Sanaa Hamri

Sanaa Hamri is a Moroccan-American director of film, TV and music videos. She has worked with artists from Sting to Mariah Carey and Prince. Her feature films include Something New and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. Hamri is the first Moroccan woman ever to direct a Hollywood movie. Her father was author and painter Mohamed Hamri, who was part of the Beat scene in Tangier in the 1960s and 70s.

1. You were not only born and raised in Tangier – a melting pot of culture unlike any other – but your family background was completely unique. Can you comment on how your childhood family life, set against the backdrop of Tangier, prepared you as it did for the challenges ahead?

Tangier influenced me as a child because I was around so many different types of people from different countries. The so-called ‘International Zone’ was exactly that. It made me quick to learn how to speak to different people, connect and be able to accept differences. This is and was essential for entering the music industry and eventually Hollywood. The entertainment industry requires being able to adapt and understand different points of view. Growing up the way I did created an unflappable spirit in me.

2. You are the only Moroccan woman to have ever broken into both the American music industry and Hollywood. Can you give a sense of how you succeeded so spectacularly, when so many others failed?

No matter where you are from or who you are, breaking into Hollywood is always super challenging. It’s a very tight-knit community. I believe that the mixture of hard work, luck and being in the right place at the right time helped move me closer towards that dream.

3. If you could transplant certain values from your homeland of Morocco to the USA, where you live, what would they be?

The sense of community, hospitality and kindness. Moroccans are proud of their design, their food and take great pride in sharing. We are a generous group.

4. Are there American values you would like to see adopted in Morocco?

A lot of good values from America are starting to come to Morocco. The women’s movement is crucial to African countries and Morocco is now at the forefront.

5. Your father, Mohamed Hamri, was so central to the East-West cultural scene from the early 1950s onwards – inspiring Paul Bowles, Brian Jones, William Burroughs, and so many others. Could you comment on the role you consider your father played in bridging cultures, and how his work inspired you?

My father was ahead of his time as a Moroccan AND as a man during that era. He encouraged tolerance, acceptance and freedom. He was essential in pushing the dialogue between different cultures and different political views. He was proud to be Moroccan and made sure that the next generation respected the culture as well. His art reflected his love of Morocco, the people, the landscapes. There was authenticity in his art pieces. When you look at his work, you feel the magic of Morocco. This really impacted me as a child as I was immersed in colours and application of paint. I believe being exposed to his visuals around me strengthened my sense of cinema and vision.