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Thierry Verniss…the lens through which the legends of Arabic music stand

French director Thierry Vernis entered the Arab world with romance and video commercials. After the first commercial in Lebanon in 2001, he met his wife and would become the mother of his children. It was only a few months ago that his name shone in the world of Arabic video songs. Vernis was one of the first foreign directors to collaborate with artists from Arab countries in video clip work.

From Rakeb Alama to Elisa, through Kazem Al-Sahar and Zeena Imad, Verniss did not end with Karol Samaha, who had a large share of the camera. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, he said that he beat Samaha’s record by collaborating with him on 16 video clips he directed. His most recent work was filming Nawal Al-Quaiti’s song “China My Days” in the South of France. The clip, which was released a few weeks ago, came as a surprise to Nawal’s fans as he is not used to appearing with such pride, dancing, joy and moves.

First is human intimacy

The first meeting between the French director and the Kuwaiti star took place 3 years ago. He goes back to the day they shot a perfume ad: “I was drawn to her compassion and humanity.” He opened his heart easily and gave me confidence in working together. This human intimacy is so important to me in my relationship with artists, so I can tell a story through their clips.

Three years passed when artiste Vernis approached her about wanting to film a song under his direction. She wanted a different image than what she had presented before, she wanted an image that people didn’t expect from her, so she kept what she wanted.

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Behind the scenes of the montage of Nawal Al-Quaiti’s “Zeena Ayyami” video clip (Director Photos)

Vernis does not deny that the Arab world is full of great directing talent, but explains that Arab artists use foreign directors: “If Arab artists come to me, it’s because they like my film. They are looking for a difference, a different approach and perspective. Just as Western artists turn to Arab directors.”

Breaking boundaries

Although French and not fluent in Arabic, it was not difficult for Vernice to convey the meanings of Arabic songs through her imagery. He lets the music lead him to the meaning, but in practice he demands that the words be translated into French or English. Because he believes in the universality of human feelings, he does not allow for geographical or linguistic barriers, and “however different cultures may be, human nature is the same.” “We are all human and our feelings and emotions are the same,” Vernis explains.

Vernice entered the Arab world in 2001 and has since collaborated with prominent artists (Photos by Director)

This belief of Verniss is also reflected in his photographic works as he used to choose remote and new locations for his photography. Perhaps the biggest proof of this is the clip “We return to you” by Karol Samaha, the first of their collaborations in 2009. The group then traveled to the Maldives, where Samaha appeared in a renewed environment. Vernice comments: “I like to break geographical boundaries, so I often travel to remote places to photograph and discover new worlds through my lens.” The veteran director, who has more than 500 video clips under his belt, continues: “One of the biggest joys in directing is getting to penetrate many cultures and get to know different personalities.”

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Carol… From artist to friend

Among those artistic figures with whom Verniss collaborated, Karol Samaha was the one who most admired and influenced him. He speaks of her kindness and sense of humor and confirms that their relationship has become closer to friendship than work. He says: “When we shoot together, we don’t feel like we’re working, we just have fun. His theater background and acting skills make the scenes very easy. Nor is she opposed to the artistic frenzy that can occur in photography.

Carol Samaha and Thierry Vernis have a family friendship and more than 15 video clips (Instagram)

Not even a year passed without Vernis signing the video work of the Lebanese artist: “I’m not afraid,” “I say I’ll forget you,” “Be alone,” “I’m used to it,” and many other songs. The director particularly stops at the video clip of “Vahshani Biladi” (2015), which he loved working on, he explains, and brought a message and complexity to the world of the song. As for the song “The Great East,” he says: “I think we broke all the rules in this clip, and it’s without a doubt the most important thing I’ve ever shot for Carol.”

Verniss emphasizes that he did not impose his opinion or vision on the artists; “When they come to collaborate with me,​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​a.

5 Working with Celine Dion

Internationally, Vernice has collaborated with big names in the music world such as Celine Dion, Laura Fabian, Florent Bagnier, Patrick Fiore, Kelly Rowland and many more. Despite these broad and diverse identities, he sees no difference between the artists of the West and the Arab world on a human level. He explains: “Only the tone of the song and the story are different. Human relationships are the same and everyone has the same dreams. Be it Celine Dion, Laura Fabian, Nawal Al-Kwaidi or Karol Samaha, their common desire is to reflect a beautiful image through their works.

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Vernis with Canadian singer Laura Fabian (Director’s Photo)

Collaborating with Celine Dion is undoubtedly one of the most important milestones in Vernice’s career. He photographed 5 works for him, among them Parlor a mon pere and Chill en restate kun. He describes her as a great lady. However, “these universal experiences do not mean that other experiences in the Arab world are less important and valuable,” affirms the French director.

Vernis collaborated with hundreds of artists of various fame and fame, “but in all these experiences I gave my best regardless of the name of the artist,” says the director.

After more than 30 years in the field, he aspires to more, and among the Arab artists he hopes will stand in front of his lens, he mentions Amr Diab and Saber El Rebai.

Currently, Vernies spends most of his time producing two French series, in collaboration with Kazem El Saher in producing a new project.

Nadia Barnett
Nadia Barnett
"Award-winning beer geek. Extreme coffeeaholic. Introvert. Avid travel specialist. Hipster-friendly communicator."

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