By Emily Parker | Sep 8 2011Arts ,bouazizi ,Cannes' ,culture ,Europe ,
An international movie producer and distributor, Tarak Ben Ammar is the owner of the French production and distribution company Quinta Communications. He is particularly well-known for producing and distributing artistic films that focus on Mediterranean and North African cultures. According to his website, his main aim, however, is to, “put Tunisia on the world film map”.
Tarak Ben Ammar was born on June 12, 1949 in Tunis to a French mother who immigrated to Tunisia. His father was a diplomat, and his aunt was Wassila Bourguiba, the second wife of President Habib Bourguiba. Ben Ammar credits his open and objective outlook, both in his life and in his films, to his non-religious, pluralistic upbringing. He began his education at the American School in Tunisia, before being sent to a boarding school in Rome at the age of thirteen. In Rome, he discovered the works of major directors and producers with whom he would later collaborate, such as Roberto Rossellini and Dino de Laurentiis.
Ben Ammar received his degree in International Economy from Georgetown University (Washington DC, USA) in 1970 and shortly thereafter moved back to Tunisia. Just four years later, the Carthago Films Production Company was established in Tunisia, and Ben Ammar took on the dual roles of being its CEO and producer. He is known for producing numerous feature-length movies from France and Italy, such as L’autre (1991), à‰crans de Sable (1991), La Traviata (1982), and Young Toscanini (1988). In total, he has produced more than 60 films, and collaborated on many others.
According to his website, Ben Ammar has “implemented a strategy to develop North-South exchanges [by encouraging] foreigners to come and film in his country.” As such, he assists with the logistics of filming in Tunisia and has actively worked to open production and post-production companies in Tunisia, for example, the post-production center LTC-Gammart, which opened in 2006. His studios have generated jobs to 100,000 people over a span of 30 years. He additionally has recently announced a partnership with the Maghrebian Nessma TV station, with the goal of strengthening ties between the Maghreb and Europe.
This native Tunisian, but self-described “citizen of the world,” has also worked with several famous American directors and celebrities. In 1979, Ben Ammar worked as the executive producer in Tunisia for Monthy Python, The Life of Brian, by Terry Jones. He is also attributed to being the individual who convinced George Lucas to shoot his infamous Star Wars series in Tunisia. Moreover, he served as the production coordinator in Tunisia for Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, and as producer for Peter Webber’s Hannibal Rising, in 2007. For two years, beginning in 1996, Ben Ammar even worked as pop star Michael Jackson's manager, and he produced this celebrity’s world tour.
In 1989, Ben Ammar created Quinta Communications in association with Silvio Berlusconi. This European production company describes itself as specializing in, “…prestigious series and television films…whose objective is to support productions initiated by third parties.” He is currently teaming up with New York investment bank Goldman Sachs to create “Europe’s first genuinely integrated standalone movie powerhouse.”
On January 31st, 2011, Ben Ammar announced his plans to produce and fully finance a feature film about Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor who famously set himself aflame to protest the difficult living conditions and corruptness of the former Tunisian regime, and who later became one of the emblems of the January 14th revolution. Ben Ammar plans to consult with the Bouazizi family throughout the filming process, and all profits from the movie will go directly to the family. The project is planned to be filmed later this year, all in Tunisia. It is to be released at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012.
Ben Ammar has received numerous awards and recognitions, and in 1984, Franà§ois Mitterrand awarded him the French “Légion d’Honneur” in recognition of his contribution to cinema.
CNBC European Business / April 2008