Writer, actor, film producer, and now full fledged music video director, Asser Yassin has proven his multi-faceted artistry once again, by directing, starring and producing in Wust El Balad’s latest tune, El Ekhtelaf El Mo’talef (The Similar Differences). Releasing the video at the beginning of the year, the video has already amassed a lot of controversy due to its vague story line and melancholy nature, a big departure from Yassin’s directorial debut in Abu’s Ahwak (I Love You). eniGma’s Farida El Sayed sits down with the creative genius at the enchanting Belle Epoque where Yassin discussed everything from his journey as a director to his opinion on death and everything in between.
According to Yassin he is actually long-time friends with the band members of Wust El Balad, “I’ve known them for 10-12 years now. I know them because I used to live in Wust El Balad for sometime and they were there most of the time and I used to attend a lot of their gigs. They saw the music video I did for Abu and they liked it so they told me pick one of the songs from the new album and direct it. So I directed it, and produced it.”
Even though the music video is in stark contrast to his previous one, he confidently embraces this new dimension. According to Yassin, “It is dark, it’s not dark as in dark ‘bad’. I think it’s mellow and it’s sad and it’s painful and it’s romantic and there is a lot of humor in it. And there’s a bit of magic and a bit of mystery. It does have themes of death but at the same time I don’t see death as a bad thing or a dark thing I think it’s a continuation for something and you never know it could be beautiful.” Yassin not only loved the lyrics and enjoyed the melody, but the idea of having an Ekhtelaf El Mo’talef (The Similar Differences) really attracted him to the project. “I think all of us should attain or acquire reaching a certain balance on things. This is what inspired the music video. I should be as strong as I am weak, I have to be good as I am bad, I have to be as courageous as a coward, and in acquiring this balance you kind of get into your own element and discover your own purpose. And my purpose now is to give back or serve a higher creative purpose,” he continues. Yassin speaks with a genuine charm that makes it easy to be convinced by his point of view.
But what do the coffins, the cards, and the hologram of Om Kulthum mean? The music video takes place in King Marriut, off the Cairo- Alexandria Road and the assassin that Yassin plays kills the band members and places them in coffins at the beginning of the music video. He does so by giving them a card associated with their date of birth, signaling their death. Upon entering his house there’s a hologram of Om Kulthum as he looks out the window. According to Yassin, “A lot of signs told me to include Om Kulthum in the music video.” He jovially calls her ‘Souma,’ a reflection of his light-hearted nature. After a short time later he goes outside of his house to discover a young woman passed out in the river boat. Even though he takes her in, he attempts to kill her by giving her, her destined card. He keeps on offering her cards every chance he gets, but to no avail. None of the cards in the deck seem to match her. Instead she hands him a cup of poisonous coffee towards the end, thus killing him. She is his assassin, not the other way round, as Yassin graciously explains, “but kindly enough and nicely they send him as a spirit to her, even though he killed them. So it’s the band’s way of avenging in a very romantic way. This is my story.”
However Yassin heavily insists that, “you really don’t have to understand it, I don’t want that. I want the stimulus; you may be getting something else from it. We’ve heard this a lot. Like, “What does this painting mean?” You try to understand it and it’s not about understanding. It’s about what you feel. Don’t try to see it through my eyes, or through your eyes, or force me to understand.” Yassin explains that if you don’t have the luxury of watching it more than once, he simply just wants you to “feel the magic in it because to me there is magic to it.”
Even though the music video deals with existential topics, Yassin surprisingly used to have a hard time dealing with the subject of death, exposing his vulnerability. “I used to have anxiety attacks/panic attacks for two years, maybe five years ago and that was in a time when my mind was taking control, and everything was calculated. I was pursuing actions that were based on popular demand; it was a trial period to penetrate the market and to take my career in a completely different way,” he says. Now he has a much more mellow approach when it comes to the subject, “I accept death, I accept loss, and I accept pain. I have to accept it because it’s inevitable.”
What’s inevitable though is Yassin’s rising star power which will be taken to greater heights through his latest film Torab El Mass (Diamond Dust). He is currently filming the last few scenes and he truly feels intrinsically elevated by this project, “I think it has a great purpose. There is something really honest about doing this film. The level of details we reached to create such a film is scarce nowadays. I have a perfume for the character, I have his walk, his dreams, I have everything. The film is saying something big, it is saying whenever there is no law we are killing each other. It’s like we are back to the jungle. And if we do this we are killing ourselves in a way.”
While he isn’t acting, directing, or producing, you will find this lovely father of two painting a storm; however you will not find his art work in a gallery any time soon, as he has no plans of selling them. We are sure that there are greater things to come from this creative spirit. In the meantime enjoy his masterpiece: