Cinema of Tunisia
No. of screens48 (As of July 2022)[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.


The first feature-length movie produced in North Africa, Les Cinq gentlemen maudits (The Five Accursed Gentlemen), was filmed in Tunisia by French director Luitz-Morat.[4] In 1922, Tunisian Albert Samama-Chikli directed Zohra followed by Ain Al-Ghazal (The Girl from Carthage) in 1924, making him one of the first native North African filmmakers.[5] In 1966, the first Tunisian feature film (95 minutes) Al-Fajr (The Dawn)[6] about the fight against French colonizers, was directed and produced by Omar Khlifi and shot on a 35 mm film.[7] Tunisia also hosts the Carthage Film Festival established in 1966. The festival gives priority to films from Arab-speaking and African countries and is the oldest film festival on the African continent.[8]

In 1927, Tunis-Film, the first Tunisian film distribution company was established. After the country's independence, movies were exclusively produced by Société Anonyme Tunisienne de Production et d'Expansion Cinématographique (SATPEC). Founded in 1964 by the President Habib Bourguiba, SATPEC controlled cinema and filming productions in the country at the time. During the 1980s, private production companies and studios emerged with the aim to make Tunisia the Mediterranean Hollywood. Tunisian producer Tarak Ben Ammar, a nephew of president Bourguiba, created the first film studio in Tunisia and succeeded in attracting notable production companies to shoot at his studios in Monastir. These included Roman Polanski's Pirates and Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth. After visiting Tunisia George Lucas, inspired by the natural beauty and old architecture of some Southern Tunisian towns, decided to film important scenes of Star Wars, as well as Indiana Jones in the country. Anthony Minghella also filmed the Academy Awards winning 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.[9] 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).[10]

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.[11]

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.[12] 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[13] 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.[14]

Around 2015, there were less than 30 screens under commercial use all across Tunisia, a number that is widely considered low in international standards for a country with a population of 11 millions. In November 2019, the number was estimated at 41 screens all across Tunisia. The country has seen a significant increase in theaters in recent years thanks to a renewed interest in movie-going as well as the development of multiplexes, a newly-introduced concept in the country. As of July 2022, there are 48 screens all across Tunisia.

Academy Award nominations

Main article: List of Tunisian submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film

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.[15] As of 2023, ten Tunisian films have been submitted for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film. The Man Who Sold His Skin was nominated for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film at 93rd Academy Awards. It became the first Tunisian film to be nominated for an Academy Award.[16] Documentary film Four Daughters was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at 96th Academy Awards.[17] Both films were directed by Kaouther Ben Hania and with Four Daughters nomination, Hania became the first Arab Woman to earn two academy awards nominations.[18]

Kaouther Ben Hania

See also


  1. ^ a b "Table 8: Cinema Infrastructure – Capacity". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on December 24, 2018. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  2. ^ "Average national film production". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on October 23, 2013. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  3. ^ "Table 11: Exhibition – Admissions & Gross Box Office (GBO)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on December 24, 2018. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  4. ^ Salazkina, Masha; Fibla, Enrique (January 5, 2021). Global Perspectives on Amateur Film Histories and Cultures. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-05205-6. Archived from the original on January 18, 2023. Retrieved January 3, 2023.
  5. ^ "History of Tunisian Cinema". Archived from the original on October 28, 2008.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 25, 2024. Retrieved November 18, 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Africiné - le leader mondial du cinéma africain et diaspora". Africiné. Archived from the original on March 9, 2021. Retrieved March 15, 2021.
  8. ^ "Carthage Film Festival Page on IMDB". IMDb. Archived from the original on December 27, 2009. Retrieved June 29, 2018.
  9. ^ "Un cinéma dynamique (Tangka Guide)". Archived from the original on October 7, 2011.
  10. ^ Chikhaoui, Tahar (May 1994). "Selma, Nejia, Moufida and the others". Ecrans d'Afrique (8): 10. Archived from the original on September 8, 2014. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  11. ^ "TUNISIA INAUGURATES CITY OF CULTURE". Tunis Daily News. Archived from the original on March 26, 2018. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  12. ^ "Special Rules for the Best Foreign Language Film Award". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on July 5, 2018. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  13. ^ [,520,73539,3 "Azur City Tunis"]. Azur City. ((cite web)): Check |url= value (help)
  14. ^ "La Cigale Gammarth". Tunisie.Co. Archived from the original on May 13, 2018. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  15. ^ "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.
  16. ^ "Romania Earns First Oscar Nomination for 'Collective,' Tunisia for 'The Man Who Sold His Skin'". March 15, 2021. Archived from the original on March 15, 2021. Retrieved March 15, 2021.
  17. ^ Bergeson, Samantha (December 21, 2023). "2024 Oscar Shortlists Unveiled: 'Barbie,' 'Poor Things,' 'Maestro,' and 'The Zone of Interest' Make the Cut". IndieWire. Archived from the original on December 22, 2023. Retrieved December 22, 2023.
  18. ^ Mullally, William (January 23, 2024). "Kaouther Ben Hania makes history as first Arab woman with two Oscar nominations". The National. Archived from the original on January 24, 2024. Retrieved January 25, 2024.

Further reading