Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Entertainment
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Star Wars Stormtroopers march on Tunis as part of innovative tourism campaign

This Tuesday, April 29, 2014 photo provided by Lucasfilm shows Star Wars writer/director/producer J.J. Abrams, rear center, at the cast read-through of Star Wars: Episode VII at Pinewood Studios near London. Clockwise from top right are Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, producer Bryan Burk, Lucasfilm President and Producer Kathleen Kennedy, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Andy Serkis, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver and writer Lawrence Kasdan. (AP Photo/Lucasfilm, David James)

Enlarge Image

This Tuesday, April 29, 2014 photo provided by Lucasfilm shows Star Wars writer/director/producer J.J. Abrams, rear center, at the cast read-through of Star Wars: Episode VII at Pinewood Studios near London. Clockwise from top right are Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, producer Bryan Burk, Lucasfilm President and Producer Kathleen Kennedy, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Andy Serkis, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver and writer Lawrence Kasdan. (AP Photo/Lucasfilm, David James)

TUNIS, Tunisia - Two dozen white-clad Imperial Troopers and other Star Wars characters marched Wednesday down a stately, tree-lined avenue in Tunis — a site where activists once fought riot police during the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions.

The empire was not striking back against the poster child for Arab democracy — just an innovative campaign to encourage tourists to return to this sunny desert-and-beach nation in North Africa.

"We came here to Tunis to help save the Star Wars sites in Matmata and Tozeur and convince people to return to Tunisia," said Ingo Kaiser, head of a Star Wars fan club in Europe, referring to the movie sets that are slowly being covered up by sand in the Tunisian desert.

He wore the khaki overalls and large helmet of the two-legged AT-ST machines that battled rebels in the forest of Endor in the 1983 film "Return of the Jedi."

A huge screen broadcast scenes from the Star Wars films as the thronging crowds snapped photos of the costumed Star Wars characters.

"It's the first time such an even has happened in Tunis, it's really impressive," said Asma Souissi, a 19-year-old student. "It opens up new horizons for Tunisia."

After long-time President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown in 2011, Tunisia was rocked by labour unrest, terrorist attacks and political assassinations. That devastated Tunisia's key tourism sector, which contributes 7 per cent to the country's GDP and employs 400,000 people.

So the Tunisian National Office for Tourism teamed up with the country's new Star Wars fan club to stage the country's its first Star Wars encounter. Fan clubs from Europe took part in Wednesday's parade and screenings of the Star Wars films will take place at the desert movie sets over the next few days.

"We did this campaign to take advantage of these sets, which are unique in the world — the only sites from the movies remaining," said Zied Chargui, director of the National Office of Tunisian Tourism.

The campaign began with Tunisia's own video of Pharrell Williams' popular "Happy" song featuring Star Wars characters dancing around Tunisian tourist sites and the movie sets. The video has been viewed 1.7 million times since it was posted in March — and was tweeted by Williams himself.

"It created a global buzz, which makes us very happy," said Chargui.

The original 1977 Star Wars was filmed in Tunisia, with protagonist Luke Skywalker's home planet borrowing its name of the nearby town of Tatouine. Tourists can even stay in the Sidi Driss hotel in Matmata where Skywalker grew up.

New sets were built for the 1999 "Phantom Menace" film as well as its 2002 sequel. The seventh episode in the Star Wars franchise is expected next year but it is not filming in Tunisia, apparently due to concerns about stability. Some scenes are now being shot in Abu Dhabi and the cast was announced to great fanfare on Tuesday.

The Tunisian tourism industry nearly collapsed in 2011. In the past few months, there has been a return to stability and a renewed effort to bring back tourists, but the 6.2 million arrivals in 2013 are still 9 per cent less than 2010.

"This event will give a boost that Tunisian tourism really needs — it is something new and a sign of opening up to the outside," said travel agent Rene Trabelsi, who is involved in the annual Jewish pilgrimage to the Tunisian island of Djerba. Restrictions were recently eased on Israelis seeking to make the trip.

"It's our first convention and we will see if we can make it annual," said Ameur Abderrahman, director of Tunisia's year-and-a-half-old Star Wars fan club.

The campaign also involves an effort to save one of the sets, which is being engulfed by a sand dune. A crowdsourcing website seeks to raise $188,000 to clear away the dune and restore the fictional settlement of Mos Espa from the 1999 film.

Chargui, the head of the tourism office, said Wednesday's march was only the first in a series of new promotions.

"There are many young Tunisians with many ideas — and when we finish with Star Wars, then you will see others," he said.

____

Schemm reported from Rabat, Morocco.

____

Links

http://savemosespa.org/blog/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HvaFhUcm-4

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Sudden Surge: Flood of 2014
Opportunity Magazine — The Bakken
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media