Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications has signed multi-territory distribution deals with Warner Bros and Universal Pictures for the $55 million epic adventure Black Gold. Warner Bros will distribute the film in France, the United Kingdom, Latin America and the Middle East.

Universal Pictures International (UPI) will distribute the film in Germany and Spain.
Quinta Communications’ Eagle Pictures is handling distribution in Italy.

Remaining distribution deals are currently being finalised for a worldwide Christmas 2011 release.

Antonio Banderas, Tahar Rahim, Mark Strong, Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed and Liya Kebede have all joined the cast of the film, an adaptation of Hans Reusch’s novel The Great Thirst.

Jean-Jacques Annaud will direct based on the screenplay by Menno Meyjes. Jean-Jacques Annaud and Alain Godard have co-written the story.

Principal photography will begin in Tunisia on Oct 18 and the film will shoot in Ben Ammar’s Empire Studios and on location in Tunisia.

Thr film is about the rivalry between two Emirs in Arabia in the 1930s just as oil is being discovered, and the rise of a young, dynamic leader who unites the various tribes of the desert kingdoms.

Tahar Rahim (The Prophet) will play the lead role of Prince Auda.

Mark Strong is Auda’s father Amar, ruler of Salmaah, who is forced to give up his beloved two sons after losing a battle to his fierce enemy Nessib, ruler of the kingdom of Hobeika, played by Antonio Banderas. Frieda Pinto plays Princess Lallah, the daughter of Nessib and future wife of Auda. Riz Ahmed (Four Lions) plays the wisecracking Dr. Ali, half-brother to Auda, while supermodel Liya Kebeda plays fiery Bedouin slave girl Aicha.

“I first optioned the book in 1978 when I was still only beginning my career as a film producer,” said Tarak Ben Ammar. “The film will chart the relationship between oil and Islam in Arabia and the clash between modernity and tradition which shaped the region for decades to come. The themes are still very alive: Is oil an advantage? Which countries have used it intelligently? Which have been able to stay faithful to their culture, religion, yet modern at the same time? Not since Lawrence of Arabia has there been a picture like this about the Arabian Peninsula.”

Richard Fox, Executive VP International Warner Bros. added: “We at Warner Bros. are proud and delighted to be involved in such a prestigious project. Tarak Ben Ammar’s passion and commitment to this film has been instrumental in assembling such an amazingly talented group of filmmakers and actors who will now bring this epic tale to the screen.”

Christian Grass, President of International Production and Acquisitions for Universal Pictures International (UPI) said: “We’re delighted to be able to work with Tarak Ben Ammar and come onboard Black Gold as the international distribution partner in select territories. This epic adventure further enhances our 2011 slate and is just the kind of exciting event movie that we believe can appeal to audiences around the world.”

“This is a timely film for the whole family to see and enjoy together. We promise to transport them to another world under the Arabian sky,” says Ben Ammar. “This is a big-budget, big, big epic with a lot of action, planes, tanks and thousands of extras.”