“Just Wright” director embraces multi-cultural view of art, people
BY DENNIS KING
NEW YORK – Sanaa Hamri has made a name for herself as a director who is adept at handling multi-racial, multi-cultural stories.
In music videos and on film and television, she’s worked with artists as diverse as Prince and Sting and on stories ranging from the largely black romance “Something New” to the multi-racial “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2” to mostly white TV series “Desperate Housewives” and “Men in Trees.”
The lively director of the newly released Queen Latifah-Common romantic comedy, “Just Wright,” said her multi-hued take on life and art comes naturally.
“I think my vision comes from within,” said Hamri, who was born in Tangier, Morocco. “I’m multi-cultural. I’m mixed. I grew up with people with different skin colors. What you see on screen is how I feel about the diversity of people and their beauty.”
Hamri, who studied theater arts and psychology at Sarah Lawrence College, talked about Queen Latifah, Common and the making of “Just Wright” during a recent press event hosted by Fox Searchlight.
On the film’s strong basketball theme: “I played basketball as a teen. I was a point guard, and I’m 5 foot, 2,” she said with a laugh. “I’m athletic, so I understand sports and I understand the dynamic of athletes. But I think what helped me most on this film is that I’m fascinated by body and motion. I mean, I know more about soccer because in Africa that’s the main sport for us. But here basketball is so cool, and the dynamics are very similar.”
On working with Queen Latifah: “I hadn’t worked with Latifah before, and I was stunned at how quickly she picked up the details of her character, the jargon and techniques of a physical therapist (her character’s profession). At one point I wondered, did she study physical therapy? We had consultants on the set, but she was just so natural at it. I was tempted to ask her, can you check my sore knee out? She just knows how to get into those roles.”
On the casting of hip-hop artist Common in his first leading role: “You know, Common is a positive, great role model,” she said. “I always liked him as a person. It’s always difficult when you have an actor who comes from a musical career. But I knew he upheld what he talked about in his music. He’s kind of unique among hip-hop artists of his caliber. I mean most of them are talking about loose women and the party they went to last night, which I’m tired of. I always knew that Common has so many layers emotionally, so when this role came up I knew he would be perfect for it.
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