• Golden Globe Awards

Ahmed Lateef

The HFPA family lost a long standing member and a cherished friend this week. Ahmed Lateef was originally from India, he moved to the U.S. in the 50s and studied film here. In addition to writing about film, Ahmed was a practitioner of the art of filmmaking and a pioneer in the forms of commercial and music videos. He directed over 1,000 commercials some with name stars and one with Salvador Dali and won a CLIO. He experimented with mixing music tracks and 3D cell animation. He was also the first person from India to become a member of the DGA. Our colleague Noel De Souza remembers his friend and compatriot.
Ahmed and I had been friends for over 60 years. We were bound together by a very unique culture and that is the culture of Hyderabad – a state in India in which we were born and brought up in. We moved in the same circles and had many common interests.
I moved to the States in the early fifties and Ahmed followed a few years later. He enrolled in the UCLA film school where his talents were soon recognized by his teachers. While still at UCLA he was an assistant teacher, and one of his pupils was Francis Ford Coppola with whom he kept in touch.

Ahmed graduated from UCLA as an accomplished film editor, cinematographer and director. His first jobs were editorial. He worked for a then well-known production house run by John Uri. It was there that Ahmed got his first break as a director. It was the sixties and Brazil 66 came upon the scene. Herb Alpert wanted to promote his album, he asked John Uri to do it, his budget was limited, so John asked Ahmed if he would like to do it and Ahmed jumped at the chance. I remember being on the set and watching his talent unfold, it was a talent I admired and sometimes envied. I always looked up to Ahmed and thought that he was enormously talented. Once the commercial production house saw the Brazil 66 video they were all bidding for his talent, they wanted to keep him on a retainer. So Ahmed was free to choose whom he wanted to work with. He moved from one production house to another and just as rapidly his reputation as an ace director had spread to the advertising agencies and he was given some of the top commercials of the time to direct and was listed as one of the top ten commercial directors of the time. Ahmed was awarded a CLEO for directing a Pan American Airlines Christmas commercial. He directed many of the stars of the time, but I think the biggest thrill and headache for him was when he directed Salvador Dali in a car commercial. He went to Spain, met Dali discussed the shoot, but on the day of the shoot, Dali turned up late and when he saw a motion picture camera there, he picked up a stick and began to bash the car saying that he never agreed to be filmed but to just be shot by a still camera. So Ahmed agreed, took a number of stills and put the commercial together, this inventiveness is what I admired about him coupled with his friendly manner on the set, he treated both stars and crew with equal respect. This quality was imbedded in his every day life, and like most talented people, he never touted his accomplishments and he always remained humble.
I shall miss him immensely both as a friend an as an inspiration.
Noel De Souza