Tunisian studios still up and running
Is unrest in the Arab world causing a production freeze in the Middle East?Yes, but not in Tunisia, it seems. Although the country that triggered all the turmoil has a fragile provisional government, following the ouster of longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, “day-to-day life is stable,” says a rep for Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications, which runs three Tunisian studios, all of which are “open for business.” Quinta’s labs, called LTC-Gammarth, outside Tunis, are in full swing for “Black Gold,” the Jean-Jacques Annaud-directed epic which, after shooting in the country right through the revolution, recently moved from Tunisia to Qatar, as planned. In fact, Quinta sees the ongoing turmoil as an opportunity to lure more productions to the studios “and keep our guys employed.” “We are encouraging offers and receiving lots of interest from regional players looking to do a bunch of things,” including a mega Arab skein expectedto shoot there soon. One timely production set to start principal photography in Tunisia is “Bouazizi,” the biopic of Jasmine Revolution icon Mohamed Bouazizi, recently announced by Ben Ammar and swiftly going forward. Tunisian helmer Mohamed Zran (“Being Here,” “The Prince”) known for his depictions of the dreams and ambitions of average Tunisians, is now attached to direct the tale of the Tunisian 26-year-old university graduate who set himself afire in the city of Sidi Bouzid when police confiscated the fruits and vegetables he sold to support his family, because he didn’t have a permit, igniting the fire that is spreading throughout the Arab world. “We have a strong story outline and plan to start shooting on location this summer,” the Quinta rep said.