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Early life and breakthrough
Hamri was born in Tangier, Morocco, to a Moroccan Muslim father and a Jewish American mother of Russian descent. Her father was the late Moroccan painter and author Mohammed Hamri. She won a scholarship to Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, where she studied theater. She studied her junior year of college in Paris, graduated in 1996 and then moved to Manhattan. With dreams of becoming an actress, Hamri struggled through auditions and unemployment before she decided to try directing. Hamri taught herself to use an Avid editing machine in 2000 and has never taken a filmmaking course. Realizing she had a talent for putting images together in order to tell a story, Hamri began making videos and approaching the music industry.
Malik Hassan Sayeed, a cinematographer and video producer, was impressed by one of her early videos, and showed it to Mariah Carey, who subsequently "hired Hamri to direct her video". Sayeed also gave Hamri her first editing job for a reggae – hip hop fusion group called Born Jamericans.
Her videos include but are not limited to Jadakiss's "U Make Me Wanna", Prince's "Musicology", Kelly Rowland's "Stole" and Mariah Carey's "Crybaby", Bringing On The Heartbreak, "Don't Stop (Funkin' 4 Jamaica)", and Mariah Carey's unreleased video for "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life." She has also directed videos for Nicki Minaj, Lenny Kravitz, Joss Stone, Sting, Common, Raven-Symoné, Eric Benet, Amel Larrieux, Jay-Z, A*Teens, and Christina Aguilera. She also directed the music video for Greyson Chance's "Waiting Outside The Lines".
Production began in March 2005 on Focus Features' Something New, a romantic comedy starring Sanaa Lathan (Brown Sugar, Alien vs. Predator) and Simon Baker (The Ring Two, L.A. Confidential) and directed by Hamri. The film was released on January 29, 2006. Stephanie Allain produced the film through her company, Homegrown Pictures. Something New was Hamri's first film, as she made the transition from music videos to features.The film grossed $11,483,669 million and received generally positive reviews.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 with America Ferrera, Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel and Blake Lively, was the second film Hamri directed and was released on August 6, 2008. The film grossed $44,352,417 and received generally favorable reviews.
Her latest directorial project was Just Wright with Queen Latifah and Common, which was released on May 14, 2010. The film who grossed $21,570,263 million and received mixed reviews.
Along with directing feature film and music videos, Hamri also directs television. Hamri has directed multiple episodes of Nashville, Shameless, Elementary, Desperate Housewives, Greys Anatomy, and Men in Trees. Mariah Carey's live concert documentary, The Adventures of Mimi, and Prince's The Art of Musicology and Price Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas were directed by Hamri.
- Mariah Carey feat. Mystikal - "Don't Stop (Funkin' 4 Jamaica)"
- Mariah Carey - "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life" (Unreleased)
- Case - "Missing You"
- Destiny's Child - "8 Days of Christmas"
- Kelly Rowland - "Stole"
- Common feat. Mary J. Blige - "Come Close"
- Jay-Z - "Song Cry"
- A*Teens - "Floorfiller"
- Destiny's Child - "Nasty Girl"
- Solange Knowles feat. N.O.R.E. - "Feelin' You (Part II)"
- India.Arie - "Little Things"
- Jadakiss feat. Mariah Carey - "U Make Me Wanna"
- Jadakiss feat. Anthony Hamilton - "Why"
- Prince - "Musicology"
- Prince - "Call My Name"
- Raven-Symoné - "Backflip
- Amel Larrieux - "For Real"
- Mary J. Blige - "It's a Wrap"
- Nicki Minaj - "Super Bass"
- Nicki Minaj feat. Rihanna - "Fly"
- Mariah Carey feat. Justin Bieber - "All I Want For Christmas Is You"
- Porcelain Black feat. Lil Wayne - "This Is What Rock n' Roll Looks Like"
- Lupe Fiasco feat. Skylar Grey - "Words I Never Said"
- Direction - Sanaa Hamri '96
- beautiful People 2006: Sanaa Hamri
- Director Sanaa Hamri Gears Up for Her Second Motion Picture
- Girl Talk - Sanaa Hamri and Sanaa Lathan Had a Blast Making a Serious Romantic Comedy