Cinema of Tunisia

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Cinema of Tunisia
Naceur Ktari 001.jpg
No. of screens41 (As of November 2019)[1]
 • Per capita0.2 per 100,000 (2009)[1]
Produced feature films (2005–2009)[2]
Total4 (average)
Number of admissions (2008)[3]

The cinema of Tunisia began in 1896, when the Lumière brothers began showing animated films in the streets of Tunis.


In 1919, the first feature-length movie produced in North Africa: Les Cinq gentlemen maudits (The Five Accursed Gentlemen) was filmed in Tunisia. In 1924, Samama-Chikli directed a medium-length film called Ain Al-Ghazal (The Girl from Carthage) thus making him, one of the first native filmmakers in North African.[4] In 1966, the first feature Tunisian film (95 minutes) Al-Fajr (The Dawn) was directed and produced by Omar Khlifi; it was shot on a 35 mm film.[5] Tunisia also hosts the Carthage Film Festival which has been taking place since 1966. The festival gives priority to films from Arab-speaking and African countries. It is the oldest film festival on the African continent.[6]

In 1927, the first Tunisian film distribution company, Tunis-Film, started its activities. After independence, movies were exclusively produced by Société Anonyme Tunisienne de Production et d'Expansion Cinématographique (SATPEC) which controlled cinema and filming productions in the country at the time. Nevertheless, during the 1980s, private production companies and studios emerged and wanted to make Tunisia the Mediterranean Hollywood. The producer Tarak Ben Ammar, a nephew of Wasila Bourguiba, succeeded in attracting some big production companies to shoot inside his studios in Monastir. Major foreign movies were filmed in Tunisia including Roman Polanski's Pirates and Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth. After visiting Tunisia George Lucas was seduced by the natural beauty and authentic old architecture of some Southern Tunisian towns where he decided to film important scenes of Star Wars, as well as Indiana Jones. Moreover, Anthony Minghella filmed the nine Academy Awards winner The English Patient in a south-west oasis of the country.

Domestic productions were rare: the few movies which were produced since 1967 tried to reflect the new social dynamics, development, identity research, and modernity shock.[7] Some of them achieved relative success outside Tunisia, such as La Goulette (Halq El-Wadi 1996) directed by Ferid Boughedir which showed a flashback of typical community life in the small suburb of La Goulette in a period where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together in tolerance and peace. Halfaouine: Child of the Terraces (Asfour Stah 1990), also by Boughedir, is possibly the biggest success in the history of Tunisian cinema. The movie showed the life of a child from the Halfaouine suburb of Tunis in the 60s, on a quest to understand relationships, the world of women, and how to be a man. In another earlier movie entitled Man of Ashes (Rih Essedd 1986) Boughedir again depicted Tunisian society without fear or favour, covering prostitution, paedophilia, and inter-faith relations between Tunisian Muslims and Tunisian Jews. In the 1991 film Bezness, he talked about the emerging sexual tourism inside the country. The Ambassadors (As-Soufraa 1975) directed by Naceur Ktari portrayed the life of immigrant Maghrebins in France and their struggle against racism. The film won the Golden Tanit for the best picture during the Carthage Film Festival in 1976, the special jury award from the Locarno International Film Festival in the same year and it has been classified in the Un Certain Regard category during the 1978 Cannes Film Festival.

The first Tunisian actress was Haydée Chikly, who starred in the short film, Zohra in 1922. The first feature film to be directed by a woman was Fatma 75 (1975) by Selma Baccar. Subsequent female directors films such as Néjia Ben Mabrouk's Sama (1988) and Moufida Tlatli's The Silences of Palace (1994).[8]

In 2007, several films were produced and grabbed public attention, such as Making Of, directed by Nouri Bouzid and Nejib Belkadi's VHS Kahloucha.

In 2013, Abdellatif Kechiche was the first-ever Tunisian director to win the Palme D'Or award. For his film Blue Is the Warmest Colour he split the award with his two lead actresses.

On March 21, 2018, the country opened its first City of Culture, a project one of its kind in Africa and the Arab world , located in downtown Tunis. The complex contains several theaters, cinemas, screens, art and history galleries, exhibition halls, a contemporary and modern art museum, a national book centre and a cultural investment centre. [9]

As of March 2018, there were 22 screens all across Tunisia.

The first ever Cineplex in Tunisia opened in Tunis City mall in Tunis in December 2018, it consists of 8 screens and is operated by Les Cinémas Gaumont Pathé.[10] Two other multiplexes are set to open by Les Cinémas Gaumont Pathé in the coming years, one containing 8 screens at new Azur city mall in Banlieu Sud of Tunis[11] and one of 6 screens in Sousse. Hotel chain La cigale announced in 2017, that it is building a hotel along with a mall and a multiplex of 10 screens in Gammarth, Banlieue Nord of Tunis and is set to open in 2020.[12]

As of December 2018, there are 35 screens all across Tunisia.

Academy Award nominations[edit]

Tunisia has submitted films for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film on an irregular basis since 1995. The award is handed out annually by the United States Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to a feature-length motion picture produced outside the United States that contains primarily non-English dialogue.[13] As of 2009, only two Tunisian films have been submitted for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and neither was nominated for an Oscar.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Table 8: Cinema Infrastructure – Capacity". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  2. ^ "Average national film production". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  3. ^ "Table 11: Exhibition – Admissions & Gross Box Office (GBO)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  4. ^ History of Tunisian Cinema Archived October 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ (in French) AfriCiné profile of Omar Khlifi
  6. ^ Carthage Film Festival Page on IMDB
  7. ^ (in French) Un cinéma dynamique (Tangka Guide) Archived October 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Chikhaoui, Tahar (May 1994). "Selma, Nejia, Moufida and the others". Ecrans d'Afrique (8): 10.
  10. ^ "Special Rules for the Best Foreign Language Film Award". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  11. ^ [,520,73539,3 "Azur City Tunis"] Check |url= value (help). Azur City.
  12. ^ "La Cigale Gammarth". Tunisie.Co.
  13. ^ "Special Rules for the Best Foreign Language Film Award". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on August 20, 2008. Retrieved September 6, 2009.

Further reading[edit]

  • Robert Lang, New Tunisian Cinema: Allegories of Resistance, Columbia University Press, 2014, ISBN 978-0-231-16507-5
  • Florence Martin, "Cinema and State in Tunisia" in: Josef Gugler (ed.) Film in the Middle East and North Africa: Creative Dissidence, University of Texas Press and American University in Cairo Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-292-72327-6, ISBN 978-9-774-16424-8, pp 271–283