Australian cinematographer Ahmad Al Morsy films once-in-a-lifetime royal Egyptian parade broadcast live to millions of viewers around the world – by Vanessa Abbott
AC – What exactly is the Golden Parade?
AM – The Pharaoh’s Golden Parade is a journey of twenty-two royal Egyptian mummies including Kings Ramesses II, III, IV, V, VI and IX among others. The mummies gracefully travelled the streets of Egypt in parade from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation.
AC – How did you come to be the cinematographer behind this event?
AM – Being chosen to be the director and cinematographer behind an event as grand as this, was definitely an honour.
I had directed a commercial for the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities a few months back, inviting people to come back to Egypt after the Coronavirus pandemic. The campaign achieved great success, and since then the ministry officials and I have developed a mutual trust. That campaign also earned a Gold Award from the ACS in 2020.
AC – How was the job originally described to you as the person in charge of filming it?
AM – The job was originally described to me as the final journey of pharaohs, after thousands of years. That sentence itself is such a strong statement. It made me stand still for a moment. I was part of a team responsible for executing one of the biggest events to take place in this country. I was briefed by the team at a very early stage, and that was a good thing, because I had the chance to add my creative input from the very beginning.
AC – Can you talk a bit about your planning for the event?
AM – Planning this event was nothing less than hectic. Ideas were all over the place, so many possible situations, so many things to take into consideration and so many things to plan. We had countless brainstorming sessions with the whole team; choreography and styling, to graphics and production. Along with countless meetings with archeologists to be able to understand everything in detail and make sure that we are not taking a wrong direction. The team and I sat in several briefing sessions to be able to fully understand everything there is to know about these mummies and their history, and from that we started thinking of how we will tackle this artistically.
We knew from the very beginning that we need to tell a story through art. We tried to come up with one big umbrella as our concept, and from that everything else descended. We talked about locations, and what these locations represented, we talked about ancient symbols and how we can use these symbols to accommodate our event, we talked about modernising the ancient attire without being cliche or seeming old. Everything was accounted for, and that is why it took us nearly a year and a half to execute this project.
AC – Did the parade, and filming the parade, go as planned?
AM – Planning the parade was very different to the end result. When you start executing such a project you quickly realise that not everything you had planned turns out the way you had it pictured in your mind, and that was the case for every single person.
We watched this parade over a million times, and every time we watch it, we find things that we could do better, and so we go on and try to do better. This was the case for every department working; we all wanted something that would astound the world, and so we all worked towards this goal.
Looking back at the parade, I am actually very pleased with the final outcome, and would not have done anything differently. The team and I have been working for a very long time on this, and we made sure that everything that came out to the public was perfect.
However, I’m very excited to try out new techniques in upcoming projects, and take on bigger challenges in the future.
Ahmad Al Morsy is a multi-award winning cinematographer with over fifty feature films and over two-thousand television commercials under his belt.