My name is Hatim Hassanali. I’m a Cinematographer / Director / Filmmaker / Journalist / Educator and Advertising & Media Consultant. Also the CEO of Mara Moja Productions International Ltd, a full service advertising, film and digital media agency creating world-class content for clients who value innovation. Mara Moja Productions is headquartered in Mombasa, Kenya, with branches in 15 cities worldwide.
Why did you choose to be a cinematographer?
I’ve always had a passion for photo, film and entertainment in general. My great grandfather used to be a photographer and filmmaker in Zanzibar. My father had a passion for photo and video, so I basically grew up around a bunch of gear to play around with. Within no time, I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life. All I did was accept my calling.
Have you worked on International movies?
Yes indeed. There’s several short and feature films I’ve worked on in Canada, England and the US. As well as feature documentaries in Kenya, Somalia and Iraq.
For Example : Modern Conventions of Love Making
Factory Blues & Reds
Foot In The Door
An Almost Epic Month
Answers On The Other Side
You work between Kenya and Canada, what are the differences in work challenges do you face?
The first challenge would be communication. Being literally all over the place, communicating with my team in over 15 cities globally starts becoming a challenge due to different time zones and conditions. At times I see myself up all night communicating and collaborating with my team on the other end of the world. The main difference between Canada and Kenya would be time, things move a lot faster in Canada, out here in Kenya, I feel there’s a slight slack and with that, quality suffers. But things are changing. We’re constantly working on picking out the right team members and ensuring the same standard of quality is maintained throughout our bases.
What makes a movie good?
Well, I could sit here and write you a 200 page novel on that, but here’s the skinny. Good story, good visuals, good sound. And of course, a good crew, as a lot goes into making a great film. What you see on your screen took weeks, months or even years, to plan and execute.
Any upcoming projects we should know about?
I’m currently working on two a short films titled ‘Lucky Luke’ and ‘Sandwich’, followed by a feature film that begins shooting in November. Stay tuned for that.
In Mombasa, the film industry is now picking up. What advice would you give to other directors?
The first thing I’ll say is stay true to yourself and your surroundings. Secondly, keep it simple, make do with what you have. If you’re unable to afford an explosion in your film, scrap the explosion. I’m not saying don’t do the impossible, but if you are planning on it, make sure its done correctly rather than doing it for the sake of. Third, it’s never about the camera and gear you’re shooting on, make do with what you have. I’ve shot films on iPhones and Blackberries and I’ve shot on Alexas and Reds, what matters most is how you make use of the gear you have. Lastly, before anything technical, have a good story. Nothing is original in this day and age. Most stories have already been told, but you have the power to tell it differently, use it.
In terms of cinematographers, who inspires you?
There’s very many cinematographers who inspire me, but my top 7 would be Gordon Willis, Emmanuel Lubezki, Roger Deakins, Dean Semler, Rodrigo Prieto, Jeff Cronenweth and Bobby Bukowski.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I think I see myself doing the same thing I’m doing now, at a larger scale of course and with an Oscar sitting on my desk.
The only motto for me is: This might not work, but I’m about to do it anyway. I don’t want to waste your time with mediocre generic experiences. Your mind should be blown every single time you see my work. And I believe everyone should have the same mentality. Challenge the basic, challenge yourself, challenge the world.
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