Now Playing

Lights, Camera, Local!

Miami director Ayoub Qanir brings a stylishly scientific approach to cinema.

Ayoub Qanir in his element at the Miami Beach Cinematheque

Some of filmmaker Ayoub Qanir’s fondest memories are of nights spent watching movies at his best friend’s house while growing up in Casablanca, Morocco. It was then that he discovered his love for the fantastical plots of movies like Metropolis, the 1927 German expressionist science-fiction film that put director Fritz Lang on the map. Little did Qanir know that those childhood favorites would later become inspirations for his own budding career in cinema.

“I was blown away by these films and started making my own at age 11 in my backyard,” says Qanir, also a writer and industrial designer now living in Miami. “But I eventually had to let it go and became a family kid doing normal stuff because my dad, who was a civil engineer and entrepreneur, just wasn’t into it.”

After finishing school in Madrid, Qanir moved to America in 2001 to study finance at UM, but making movies remained foremost in his mind. Away from his family and inspired by the anything-goes spirit of college, he soon began experimenting with film again, starting with small documentaries to develop his voice as a filmmaker. “I realized I had this passion for style and design, mixing science with storylines about love and romance,” he says. “[Regardless], the lead character has to get the beautiful girl in the end.”

Upon graduation, he moved to California to study film direction and production in L.A., where it didn’t take him long to find work. His stylish approach caught the eye of the indie rock band Hypernova and Qanir ended up directing three of the group’s videos, all the while tackling other writing and directing gigs. One of these was the award-winning short film series Human After All, an existential riff on humanity set 3.7 billion years in the future and featuring the electronic music of the French duo Daft Punk.

He goes even further in his newest project, Koyakatsi, which he wrote, directed, produced and shot two years ago in Poland with a crew of 50. Now in post-production, the short film explores the dangers of pushing the boundaries of digital organisms while integrating elements of art and science in the storytelling. “I wanted this one to be built around an original blueprint,” he says, “to go against the grain and build my story from the sciences up and not the other way around.” With its otherworldly backdrops and sensual musical integration, Koyakatsi is a testament to Qanir’s talent and eye for the unusual. The references to artificial life and unknown organisms that inform the film are not accidental—the director is currently enrolled in a nanoscience graduate program through Harvard University. After that it’s off to Poland again for work on another project, Input Output (IO), a feature he wrote about the ways human life and computers share the same energy that he hopes will finally make it to the big screen.

“Going forward I am hoping to interest bankable stars so we can get a large studio behind us with the millions of dollars it takes to make films like this,” says Qanir. “I want to entertain and educate and open our eyes to a bigger world.”