Tunusia has long been popular as a location site for filmmakers as varied as the Monty Python troupe, George Lucas, Franco Zeffirelli, and Steven Spielberg. One of the first international filmmakers to "discover" the country was Italian Roberto Rossellini, who came there in 1975 to commence filming of his It Messia/The Messiah ( 1978). Thanks to Rossellini, a young Tunisian named Tarak ben Ammar realized the potential for a Tunisian film industry; he established Carthago Films and by 1986 had become producer of such major films as Roman Polanski Pirates. The producer also operates studios at Port El Kantaoui and Monastir and owns many theatres.
In 1957, the Tunisian government established SATPEC (Société Anonyme Tunisienne de Production et d'Expansion Cinématographique, 10 rue Ibn Khaldun, Tunis, Tunisia). It is involved primarily in production, with limited interests in distribution. In 1967, SATPEC created the major film complex at Gammarth, which includes a film laboratory, editing suites, a sound stage, viewing rooms, and mobile film units. Major Tunisian film directors include Tayeb Louichi, Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud, Ridhi Behi, Nacir Khemir, Abdeuatif Ben Ammar, Moncef Dhouib, and Lotfi Essid.
Tunisia is also important in the Arab and African film world as the site of Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage (Carthage Film Days), a biennial event at which African and Arab films are screened and filmmakers have the opportunity to meet and discuss common concerns. It has been held, with funding provided in large part by the Tunisian government, since 1976.