KSAR MEDENINE
MOS ESPA SLAVE QUARTER I

A couple of days before we left home for our holiday in Tunisia I was sent a copy of a documentary on The Phantom Menace. It had aired just before the film's release in the UK so was 6 months old. I'd missed it the first time around but my e-mail conversations with Lionel Noetzlin brought it to my attention. It was a lucky find because it contained a series of small location reports made by Dr Reynolds. I hurredly shoved it in the video and hit play. I sat back and watched with amazement as a previously unknown location (at least to myself, Gus Lopez and Lionel Noetzlin) was discovered. At the ksar in Medenine, the chief town of Tunisia's deep south, several key scenes were filmed.

We made the hour long drive from Jorf, the mainland terminal of the Ajim ferry service, and came down the main road that leads from Libya. Up ahead we could see the ranks of tour buses that marked the souvenir market - the ksar's modern function isn't as a grain store for the local Berbers but as a tourist trap. I'm sure very few of its visitors knew of its important role as a centre of hot-bed rebellion in the seventeenth century (very apt wouldn't you say?). And I knew that even fewer would have known about its recent contribution to modern cinematic history.

(It says "Welcome to the city of Medenine 'The Ksars'" in German, French, Arabic and English.)

We entered the market and crossed the courtyard to the far ghorfas (grain stores). Ignoring the pleas of the merchants who were desperate to prove that their wares were better than the identical goods of any other stall in the market, I spotted a flight of steps that led up onto the roof of the ksar so mounted with camera aorund my neck and wife in tow. From this vantage point I could see down into the quieter section of the ksar where I had imagined shooting had taken place. With a flash of insight I recognised this spot as the place where Dr Reynolds had documented Lucasfilm's shoot.

Dashing back down the steps we were accosted by a group of young locals. They must have seen us looking over the roofs because they immediately asked us if we were looking for the American film-makers. I nearly dropped my videocamera in shock! Finally someone who knew about Star Wars. I managed to get ask them, in my best French, where Lucasfilm had filmed. They pointed over the wall to the alley we'd just discovered. Further questioning revealed that another alley had been used, apparently for background .filler .material, .and .that _all the .set

decorations had been stripped and thrown away (presumably into the wadi which looked to double as the cities dump). We hastily set off to find this pivotal location, leaving behind a bunch of disgruntled Tunisians who had hoped to make a fast Dinar. Tough luck lads.

Just as we stopped to take pictures a young boy opened up the door to the ghorfa used as the Skywalker's residence. Seeing us he chuckled to himself and called out "Star Wars" before closing the door. I took the opportunity to have a sly look past the boy to see what lay inside. Sadly there was no Tatooine ponchos hanging in the hallway - just a couple of bikes.

This section of the ksar was eerily quiet compared to the hustle of the marketplace. I stood back and soaked up the atmosphere of this neglected corner of Tunisia as I looked at the place where Shmee knelt as Anakin realised what he was leaving behind.

Around the back, in the abandoned section of the ksar, we found more ghorfas. From our local information source we had discovered that these secluded alleys had been filmed for The Phantom Menace. (It was only once we'd returned to England that we found out that these ghorfas had been bluescreened in behind the Mos Espa sets near Tozeur.)

If you compare the arched doorways of the ghorfas on the right side of the top left picture, and those in the middle of the top right picture you'll find that they are the same. These ghorfas are just above Anakins hovel in the pictures at the top of this page.

 

The ghorfas on the left are those that make up the alley Qui-Gon is walking along (below). This alley way is just around the corner from the menzel that was used as Anakin's hovel. My picture was taken in much the same spot, though the lack of set dressing and the presence of a building site helps to befuddle the eye.

After an hour here we had run out of patience - those stall vendors can be very pushy - so we bought some postcards and a desert rose and high-tailed it out of town. Our next destination, Ksar Ouled Soltane, would take us through Tataouine and I wanted to get there in a hurry so we could replace our broken J-type 327 Nubian hyperdrive unit.

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