Multi-Award Winning Filmmaker Mahdi Ali Ali to Shoot New Music Video for Jessica Gibson

Portia Leigh
7 min readApr 23, 2024


Filmmaker Mahdi Ali Ali on set

Award-winning Qatari filmmaker Mahdi Ali Ali is slated to produce and direct the upcoming music video for American singer songwriter Jessica Gibson’s new song “Less I Know” next month in Los Angeles.

Having been in the industry for more than 15 years, Mahdi, who is best known as the writer, director and producer behind the award-winning films “Champs Elysees, I Love You,” “The Gulf Habibi” and “Amphitheater,” brings a unique style marked by minimalism and meticulous composition, as well as an expansive skillset to the table

“If I had to summarize what working with Mahdi is like in one word, I’d say ‘delicate.’ It’s always a really interesting experience,” explains Jessica Gibson. “He’s very calming and easy going but is never passive. He will listen and give space to an artist to illustrate their ideas but there’s never any question that Mahdi has his own very clear objectives and direction.”

With a focus on the importance of maintaining mental flexibility in the face of changing circumstances, Gibson’s new song “Less I Know” centers on the necessity of overcoming the fear that keeps us trapped in the past in order to embrace the future. According to Gibson, the lyric ‘The more I learn, the less I know’ in the song represents the ability to not only admit that growth is infinite, but also accept the eternal challenge of pursuing knowledge.

For the video, which is expected to be released this summer, Mahdi has developed a cohesive narrative that centers on a couple grappling with the fear of the unknown as they undergo the egg freezing process– a narrative that he says ‘aims to evoke emotional resonance and inspire reflection on the nature of change and personal growth.’

“Mahdi has produced and directed videos for me in the past that have turned out to be very aligned with the overall vision and message of my music,” says Gibson. “ I’m very excited to be working with him again on the development of the video for ‘Less I Know’.”

Prior to this, not only did Mahdi serve as the producer and director of the 2016 music video for Gibson’s song “Where I belong,” but Gibson also appears in the filmmaker’s 2019 dramatic film “Amphitheater.”

“Being a filmmaker from the Middle East, Mahdi brings a very unique cultural vision to the projects he works on,” says Gibson. “In my case, the overall aesthetic he introduced to my project was something I wasn’t able to find in any other director.”

Growing up in Doha in the 80s and 90s, Mahdi was fascinated by film, but had little access to the tools that would allow his dreams of becoming a filmmaker to come true; however he was determined in spite of the challenges. He bided his time using his imagination to craft stories until finally he was able to purchase a modest Sony cybershot camera, which allowed him to start shooting. He was hooked.

During a visit to LA where his brother was studying film, Mahdi enrolled in a documentary filmmaking workshop, and immediately began using the skills he learned.

He recalls, “Embracing my newfound passion, I transitioned into a professional director role, capturing the essence of my brother’s journey as he embarked on creating his first feature film through a compelling ‘behind-the-scenes’ documentary.”

Mahdi Ali Ali at the 2023 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

He followed that by moving to Paris where he went to film school and began making films. With his 2010 film “Champs Elysees, I Love You” screening at the Cannes Film Festival’s Court Metrages, being awarded at the Abu Dhabi International Film Festival and earning nominations at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival and Gulf Film Festival; and his 2011 film “Gulf Habibi” earning nominations at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, Abu Dhabi International Film Festival and Gulf Film Festival, it was clear that Mahdi possessed a rare and captivating talent as a writer, director and producer.

“Cinema transcends mere entertainment; it possesses the remarkable ability to serve as a powerful medium of artistic expression… Through the language of visuals, storytelling, and sound, films have the potential to evoke a wide range of emotions within viewers, prompting them to reflect on their own lives and the world around them,” explains Mahdi.

“It has the potential to challenge preconceptions, foster empathy, and inspire action, making it a powerful tool for social commentary and cultural critique. This is how I see cinema.”

In films like “Amphitheater,” which dives into self-expression and women’s rights, Mahdi reveals his talent for wielding his skill as a filmmaker to shed light on important personal, cultural and societal issues.

The film, which won awards at the Canadian & International Short Film Fest, Saint-Petersburg International Film Festival and MENA Film Festival, as well as nominations at the Cardiff International Film Festival, Tokyo Lift-Off Film Festival, Polish International Film Festival and others, follows a conservative tourist family as they explore art exhibitions within one of Qatar’s cultural villages. At one exhibition the teenage daughter is inspired to remove her hijab to take a selfie, but she is gently reminded by her father of their cultural expectations and practices. The film follows her as she seeks further moments of personal freedom and liberation in a small amphitheater undetected by her family.

“My aim was to create a space where the audience could not only understand but also emotionally connect with the complexity of seeking one’s voice in the midst of collective norms,” explains Mahdi. “In 2017, there was a campaign for women’s rights on social media in Qatar, initiated by some women activists. I noticed that some female artists were opposed to this movement, which motivated me to create a film in support of women’s rights in Qatar.”

Coming from Doha where access and opportunities for filmmakers were limited during his youth, it became increasingly important for Mahdi to help other filmmakers make their dreams come true. In 2012 Mahdi was selected as the Gulf Film Development Manager for the Doha Film Institute, which aims to nurture local talents within the region, hosts the Ajyal Film Festival and partners with global organizations to offer film workshops.

(From left to right) Filmmakers Hafiz Ali Ali, Mahdi Ali Ali, Mohammed Almohameed and Yousef Almadadi at a Doha Film Institute event

Through his work with the institute, Mahdi has sought out talented filmmakers from around the country and helped their projects become a reality by serving as the executive producer on their films. In fact, he has executive produced more than 30 films to date, including “Eye & Mermaid,” which was awarded at the NDU International Film Festival and Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Through his work with the Doha Film Institute he was also involved in the co-financing of numerous internationally acclaimed films such as “The Salesman,” which took home the 2017 Oscar Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, the 2018 Lebanese film “Capernaum,” which was nominated for the Oscar Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, and “It Must Be Heaven,” which earned the FIPRESCI Prize from the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, to name a few. In addition to co-financing “It Must Be Heaven,” not only did Mahdi appear as an actor in the film, but he also directed a behind the scenes making of the film.

One of the things that makes Mahdi so unique is his capacity to successfully accomplish the roles of writer, director and producer simultaneously. His prowess in each of these areas have not only been integral to the success of his own films, but they have also been a major support in his ability to produce the works of others, which have given him insight into every aspect of the filmmaking process from multiple points of view.

“A film director serves as a visual philosopher, adept at translating and transmuting the raw images of reality into poetic compositions that resonate deeply with viewers’ emotions. Conversely, a film producer functions as a developer and project manager, tasked with elevating the artistic vision of the director into a tangible, cohesive project,” explains Mahdi.

“My academic background in mechanical engineering and filmmaking uniquely equipped me to navigate these distinct roles. Both disciplines have contributed to my ability to seamlessly transition between these disparate roles, allowing me to effectively manage the creative and logistical aspects of filmmaking with equal proficiency.”

Aside from directing and producing Jessica Gibson’s upcoming music video, Mahdi Ali Ali has numerous other exciting projects in the pipeline, including the feature films “Dowayha,” “Feet” and “iPhone Memory,” as well as the short “The Mother’s Sea.” “The Mother’s Sea” is expected to shoot in LA over the summer, while “Dowayha,” which is being produced by Hezayah Production and Doha Film Institute, is slated to begin filming next year in Qatar. Both films are written and directed by Mahdi. As for “iPhone Memory,” which is slated to shoot in Paris, and “Feet,” which will shoot between Qatar and Bosnia, both films will be directed and produced by Mahdi, and are written by award-winning screenwriter Tom Abraham. Abraham, who earned an Emmy Award for his work on “Rugrats,” is known for his film “Shoeshine,” which starred Ben Stiller and earned an Academy Award nomination, “Performance Pieces,” which won the Prix du Court Metrage at Cannes, and many more.



Portia Leigh

Portia is a journalist & poet from Los Angeles. You can find her work through №3 Magazine,,, and more.