New York-based Italian photographer Rä di Martino first discovered the ruins of the sets of Star Wars and The English Patient near Chott el Djerid in Tunisi on Google Maps. Determined to get a first person view of the location, the visual artist and filmmaker travelled to Tunisia in September 2010 to track down the three Star Wars sets.
“With only my Google map as a guide, I struggled at first to find anything,” said Martino to The Guardian. “Then I met a driver who knew the desert well and offered to take me to the sites. We still ended up asking for directions at a police station and they told us it was 15km from the Algerian border – but only accessible by quad bike. Somehow we made it.”
Morroccan desert has long been used by Hollywood and European studios to depict anywhere from ancient Egypt to Jerusalem, Tibet to ancient Rome. There are huge re-creations of ancient Rome and Greece, a fake Mecca and a replica of an American gas station, which a homeless guy has moved into. After the shoot these were abandoned to become almost like archaeological sites.
“These are not real ruins,” she says. “They are just rubbish that has been left by a richer country in a poor country.”
After her pictures were published, some Star Wars fans were so annoyed that the sets of the epic movie has been left in such a state of disrepair, that they spent four days and $11,000 working with locals to restore it.
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