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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 February, 2003, 09:18 GMT
Star Wars 'exploited Africa'
Tunisia doubled as Tattooine
Mahamat Saleh Haroun, the director of hit African film Abouna (Our Father), has criticised Star Wars film-maker George Lucas, claiming he exploited Africa.

He said that Lucas's use of the North African desert as the setting for some of his scenes had actually had a massively detrimental effect on the film industry in the region.

The Sahara in Tunisia and Morocco was used as the setting for the planet Tattooine in the series, first in 1977 and then again in 1999 and 2002.

Africa has been shot by others, so the image of Africa was wrong
Mahamat Saleh Haroun
"Africa is just a location for Star Wars," Haroun told the BBC World Service's Africa Live! programme.

"Friends of mine, directors in Morocco and Tunisia, became just assistants to Hollywood.

"They came there and made their movies - and these guys stopped making movies."

Stereotyped image

Haroun was equally critical of Hollywood's portrayal of Africa and African life.

"Africa has been shot by others, so the image of Africa was wrong," he said.

"They shoot us like animals."

Hayden Christensen in Star Wars Episode II
Lucas returned to Tunisia for his prequel trilogy
And he added that this was causing a reiteration of negative stereotypes.

"Around the world, people get the wrong image of Africa through movies because African actors are just dancing and laughing with big teeth.

"It's the fault of the directors and their vision about Africa. It's like the Garden of Eden, or a location just for animals.

"I think that a lot of movies made by Hollywood in Africa, or shooting black actors, was wrong.

"They had a certain idea about black people - it's a cultural way to think like that."

Africans' stories

Abouna, which concerned the story of two children searching for their missing father, was one of the most high-profile films to come out of Africa in recent years.

It was also seen as a metaphor for Haroun's home country of Chad.

And the director concluded that it was down to Africans to shake off Hollywood stereotypes by telling their own stories.

"It is a question of the right image," he said.

"We want to reflect ourselves."

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