Tunisia: ‘Help us, Internet. You’re our only hope.’

Star Wars fans from all around the world flocked to the Tunisian capital Tunis to celebrate the first International Star Wars Fans Association meeting. (Reuters)

The Hollywood Reporter reports sources saying the next "Star Wars" film will revisit the desert planet of Tatooine. But, meanwhile, the Tunisian government is trying to raise money in an attempt to save one Tatooine set from being engulfed by an encroaching sand dune. (Don't worry, there's a way you can help.)

Agence France Presse reported Tuesday that the Tunisian government had started work on a project to save the set of the Tatooine city of Mos Espa and has allocated about $100,000 of the $200,000 needed for the project. It is hoping that sponsors and private donors will make up the rest.

There is also an online appeal to raise $45,000 on crowdfunding Web site IndieGogo, apparently launched by a local tourism chamber.

"Make a donation and join the Order of the Jedi Knights of Save Mos Espa!" it urges while offering donors the chance to get their name on a commemorative panel near the set in exchange for $1,000.

Pictures from the accompanying Save Mos Espa Web site show the work is already underway. But government officials also told AFP that the project would likely buy the set only eight to 10 years of time.


(SaveMosEspa.org)

Mos Espa was featured in "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" as the home of Anakin Skywalker. Previous reports have cited it as an active tourist spot, which is probably one of the reasons the government is so keen on keeping the sets protected from the dunes that threaten to destroy them.

Tunisia was also used as a filming location for Tatooine in the original trilogy -- including the canyon where Obi-Wan Kenobi meets Luke Skywalker, and the Skywalker homestead.

A Star Wars fan works to repair a set piece in Tunisia. (Savelars.com)
A Star Wars fan works to repair a set piece in Tunisia. (Savelars.com)

In fact, the latter was already the subject of an online fundraising drive. The fan-run "Save the Lars Homestead" project  was completed in 2012. It was aimed at preserving sets used for the outside shots of Luke's home and involved fans actually going to Tunisia to repair some set pieces. Project leader Mark Dermul told The Washington Post he was planning to revisit the set in the coming weeks.

Disney, which owns the "Star Wars" brand, did not respond to a Post inquiry on the the Hollywood Reporter's story about Tatooine's appearance in the next Star Wars film -- or if the production was considering filming in Tunisia again. The report cited a source claiming that director J.J. Abrams and Disney were planning to build an "extensive re-creation" of the desert planet " in a Morocco-like environment."

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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