Ayoub Qanir, acclaimed film director known for his short series Human After All, is getting ready to debut his latest project, Koyakatsi. Ayoub takes a very futuristic approach to his work, separating from many of the conventional directors in the industry.
After graduating from the University of Miami with a major in Entrepreneurship and Management, can you tell us why you did you decide to branch into film?
Since my childhood, I’ve always been drawn to the world of film-making. I grew up in Casablanca, Morocco-- A culture largely influenced by French cinema with brilliant auteurs such as Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Melville. Additionally, science-charged adventures had always captured my utmost imagination; Films such as Back to the Future and The Empire Strikes Back still hold a very dear place in my heart. Then during my teens, I started recapturing my own versions of certain action-packed films. Using my parents’ Sony handy-cam, I would shoot short films in the backyard with my closest friends on the weekends. Using the camera for both filming and live-editing. However, growing up I felt business studies would give me a great and insightful foundation into the mechanics of world economics. It was evident that all industries only grow through their business wisdom, and the film industry was no exception. Having acquired a foothold in business has given me the notion and understanding of resource management and value creation-- Two essential elements within every film production. I would say it was more of a natural evolution.
Hollywood always seems to portray a very dark image of a future where robots are dominant. Do you share similar views on the topic or specific nuances; do you feel as if artificial intelligence is benevolent?
I truly see science fiction as Humans’ cautionary tales-- Projections of our future ambitions and anxieties. Sci-fi just like most fantasy or action thrillers proposes a disruptive, threatening event in our continuum. Most of the time, based on something we thrive to achieve as a society or as a world in the near or further future. Hollywood, as an industry, is only delivering what most of us as Humans and audience are looking for in a story. We subconsciously want to see our most dangerous and threatening fears projected before our eyes; What they would look like and how could we resolve them. This notion of analyzing our fears and synthesizing response dates back to our ancestors in the African savanna seeking safety from predators and analyzing peculiar threats in order to survive them. Ultimately, as a species we have achieved immense goals and have made our world in our own vision. However, we still do not know what Artificial Intelligence means to us, and for that we have to certainly move cautiously towards pushing the digital world in order to maintain stability. I think Hollywood proposes threats along with solutions to break them. And I don't see any other way to propose futuristic narratives to audiences hungry for fun, exhilarating experiences coupled with relevant Human future concerns.
What was your inspiration behind your movie ‘Koyakatsi’? Was there a specific experience or series of events that led you to ‘Koyakatsi’?
Koyakatsi has been a work-in-progress for years. Starting with my early fascination with sci-fi adventures along with being a fan of certain dark film visionaries such as Darren Aronofsky with his work in Pi or his follow-up The Fountain. Darker films have always caught my attention and so when the opportunity presented itself I jumped right in and began a fantastic journey into inventing a new world. I thought the world of sci-fi was saturated, convoluted and most of all intensely repetitive. And for that reason, I set out to create something peculiar that I had never seen before and one which will hopefully make audiences want to discover and explore further. Koyakatsi comes from a very dark side of my work and an ambition to offer a world of robots and fantasy that is not so friendly, and rather not familiar at all. It all began about four years ago, with a research on the theories and visions we have on the inception of Artificial Intelligence; This riveting question of when is this break into augmented intelligence going to happen, that is if we are not already there. All while working on a short film series titled "Human After All" for Lemon Magazine featuring French music duo Daft Punk for which I had built a very eclectic and talented team of artists and visual effects renegades. Shortly after completing the short series, I felt it was only natural to pursue a longer and more challenging narrative, one that was going to push our boundaries and skill sets. Six months later I wrote a script based on my theory of the birth of Artificial Intelligence and Koyakatsi was born.
The science fiction field is a very broad market. With new technologies and concepts developing everyday, how do you plan for ‘Koyakatsi’ to disrupt the sci-fi market?
I have no specific goals or limitations for what will become of Koyakatsi. I feel truly satisfied; We did our best as a team of young artists and film-makers. We fulfilled our tasks and responsibilities, put all of our passions and ambitions through the lens and have connected with many people. Koyakatsi is now out of our hands. We will see how things unfold for us and the concept.
What are some of the most important words of advice you could offer someone who may feel discouraged in terms of breaking into the film industry?
Keep at it. Believe in yourself. It’s only through the struggle that your craft and voice get polished and your ways of communicating your ideas get improved. Don't wait for others to make your visions come true, only you can. The road is long and arduous and at times, seemingly impossible yet you must stay the course, keep resilient and go out and create. We only learn by doing.
You are studying nanotechnology at Harvard. Do you plan on taking this knowledge into any other fields besides film?
Absolutely, today’s art and technology is merging more than ever before. Our movie theaters worldwide are powered with digital projectors, digital cameras using nanomaterials are making filming much more efficient and affordable and 3D printers are used by pioneering fashion designers to print clothing. We will see more art and technology mergers in the coming future-- Allowing musicians, film makers, young programmers and coders to achieve greater dreams with less hurdles. Having said that, I am a huge follower and advocate of integrated technology. At this moment, film is my only focus. We will see how I can be of service to alternative technologies in the future.
Where do you see the future of your film development? Now that you’ve stepped into longer features? Are you specific to a genre or do you seek to expand your art across these boundaries?
I am a huge film buff of many genres and film approaches: from stylized works by Wes Anderson and Gore Verbinski to more grounded and realistic films by Chris Nolan and Michael Mann. As I travel forward in my career path I will be working on polishing my voice and film language. I certainly would never like to be cornered within one genre of film-making or another-- Exploring and expanding is the new norm.