African Fixer

Why George Lucas Chose Tunisia As The Location For Star Wars

October 5, 2022

Tataouine is a real desert location in Tunisia that served as the stand-in for Planet Tatooine in the Star Wars film series. While the original concept for the fictional planet was a forest world, George Lucas changed it to a desert world after visiting Tunisia. Below are the unique features of the country that fascinated him.

A Cross-Roads Of Diverse Civilisations

Although Tunisia is the smallest country in North Africa, its ancient culture and identity are rooted in centuries of interactions between diverse civilisations. When the Phoenicians arrived in the 12th Century and blended with the native Berber population, they established Carthage as the most powerful trading centre, until they were conquered by the Romans in 146 B.C Despite the Roman conquest, visitors to Tunisia can still see remnants of the Cartheginiancivilisation in monuments like the Amphitheatre Of El Jem.

The Muslim conquest of Tunisia in 697 brought Islam and Arab culture to the country, until the French conquered it in 1881. Ever since the country gained independence in 1957, it has been known for its unique Arab-Jewish coexistence. The best example of Tunisia’s reputation for tolerance, cooperation and welcoming foreigners is the annual Pilgrimage To djerba Festival. Hundreds of Jews, Chrsitains and Moslems gather on the island of Djerba to celebrate the country’s legacy of religious tolerance and friendship between diverse people.

Vibrant History and Folk Traditions

In the capital Tunis, visitors stroll through The Medina- a maze of narrow streets sheltering historic palaces and markets-before arriving at the Dar Jellouli Museum. Known as the ‘folk museum’, it houses traditional Berber art and folk traditions. The costumes on display inspired many of the Star Wars scenes filmed near Nafta. Traditional Berber architecture was used to build the fictional city of MosEpa. nearTouzer, for The Phantom Menace, and when visiting Touzer you can still see the giant skeleton of an alien creature designed for scenes with droids.

BouHedma National Park is another attraction on the Star Wars Locations Tour, and it is of great archeological importance. Established on the ruins of a Roman village and neighbouring settlements, it conserves a range of endangered plants and animals that make interesting backdrops when filming. With its proximity to Europe, the location is ideal for bringing in a film crew and talent.

African Fixer will reach out to the pool of local directors who assist foreign productions with obtaining the Temporary Import Permit required to bring in film equipment. The local film industry can supply professional videographers, photographers, cameramen, grip, runners and production drivers but only very basic equipment is available for hire. A local production company is required to act as guarantor to bring in any equipment, but with African Fixer all the necessary arrangements can be made within a few days.

Mediterranean Delight

After exploring the arid desert locations and archaeological sites, visitors always head to the beaches along the Mediterranean to cool off. Hammamet, Tunisia’s most famous resort town, has the best beaches in the country. Golfers flock to Port El Kantaoui to take advantage of the 18-hole golf course bordering the beach, especially during Ramadan when most services are closed.

The Only Democracy In North Africa

The 2011 Tunisian Revolution triggered by a lack of democracy overthrew the 24-year rule of President Zine Ben Ali and acted as a catalyst for the broader Arab Spring across North Africa. Free multi-party elections were held in 2014 and since then Tunisia has had a hybrid ‘semi-presidential’ regime, and it is the only country in North Africa classified as a democratic republic. While the political instability of recent years initially made film producers a bit nervous, the success of two famous productions set in Tunisia is once again inspiring the industry.

In 2019, Arab Blues, a French-Tunisian romantic comedy was critically acclaimed at the Toronto Film Festival; it was inspired by scenes from The English Patient, also filmed in Tunisia in 1987. The 2021 series of The Amazing Race is set partially in Tunisia and one of the participants enjoyed the experience so much that she has since returned to recreate it for a travel blog.

Film tourism has a major economic impact and the Tunisian government has plans to boost it by introducing a V.A.T Exemption System if local job opportunities are created by an international production. With this system, production companies can get a 18% refund of all production costs, excluding hotels and airline tickets. If the production enhances Tunisia’s image as a tourist destination, the Ministry of Culture offers a 80% subsidy for transport and accommodation costs. African Fixer will guide you through all of the formalities if you decide that you could become the next George Lucas.

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