Amine Bouhafa

You have to know how to put your composer’s ego aside before working on a visual project. It's like a work of embroidery.

Internationally acclaimed for his work on the film Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako (2014), Amine Bouhafa is one of the most talented composers of his generation. His refined music blends classical lyricism with the traditional sounds of the African continent.

Published on 21/07/2020

2 min

First contact with the piano at three years old, graduate of the Tunis conservatory at 12, composer of original music at 15: Amine Bouhafa's career reads like a catalogue of precociousness. Yet the Tunisian composer has long alternated between his career as an engineer and his passion for music. It was only in 2012 that he left the multinational he worked for to devote himself fully to composition. He went on to write scores for Egyptian television series such as First Lady (2014), Souleymane Cissé's documentary O Ka (2015) and, notably, Abderrahmane Sissako's feature film Timbuktu.

Although the success of the film led him to work on more symphonic projects such as the ballet Du désir d'horizon (Desire for Horizons) by Salia Sanou at the Théâtre de Chaillot in 2016, he has devoted most of his time to cinema where he has supported young Tunisian directors Kaouther Ben Hania (La Belle et la Meute or Beauty and the Dogs in 2017) and Mehdi M. Barsaoui (Un Fils or A Son in 2020).

A film enthusiast and diligent student, Amine Bouhafa draws elements of his musical style from the sources of Hollywood cinema and the Tunisian music which has surrounded him since childhood. Like other great composers of the 7th art, he first sets out his work like a precise and discreet weaving, designed to serve the film and the director’s vision.

For Timbuktu, Amine Bouhafa mixed the notes of Malian instruments – the kora, the n'goni – with orchestrations of the strings and woodwind instruments from his classical training. The result is a powerful soundtrack that does not seek to emphasise the story, but rather to reveal a new dimension, to express the unspoken.

Similarly, for Le Miracle du Saint Inconnu (The Unknown Saint) by Alaa Eddine Aljem (2020), the composer offers counterpoint music using offbeat instruments and western rhythms to reveal the irony of the film.

Trained in Tunisia, in France where he attended the Académie internationale de musique (International Academy of Music) in Nice, and in the United States (MBA at the University of California), Amine Bouhafa came from an international culture even before starting his career as a composer. He made his name winning three prizes for the film Timbuktu : a César, the FESPACO prize for best music and the France Musique – Sacem prize for film music. This global spotlight does not, however, take him away from his native country, Tunisia, or the eastern world where he does most of his work, from Lebanon (Halal Love by Assad Fouladkar in 2015) to Morocco (Le Miracle du Saint Inconnu or The Unknown Saint).

Amine Bouhafa also does not hesitate to support young film makers making their debuts on the international scene. To this end he composed the music for Tu mourras à 20 ans (You Will Die At 20, 2019), the first film by Sudanese Amjad Abu Alala, which won the Luigi de Laurentiis Award at the 2019 Venice Film Festival.

  • 1986


    Amine Bouhafa is born in Tunis. He discovers the piano thanks to a toy given to him by his mother at the age of three.

  • 2001


    He writes arrangements for various Tunisian performers – Rim Nagati, Lofti Bouchnak, Hela Melki.

  • 2002


    He composes his first original music for the short film Les Poupées de sucre (The Sugar Dolls) by Anis Lassoued.

  • 2012


    Amine Bouhafa leaves his job as a consultant at a multinational to devote himself entirely to music.

  • 2015


    The composer wins three awards, including the César for best film music, for the music for Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako.

  • 2019


    Amine Bouhafa returns for the third time to the Cannes Film Festival, this time for the first film by Alaa Eddine Aljem, Le Miracle du Saint Inconnu.

The Institut français and the artist

In 2016, the film Le Miracle du Saint Inconnu (The Unknown Saint) by Alaa Eddine Aljem received support from the Aide aux cinémas du monde fund. 

Find out more about the Aide aux cinémas du monde programme


Alaa Eddine Aljem also participated in the Fabrique Cinéma in 2016.

The Institut français Fabrique Cinéma is a programme promoting cinema by young creators from the Global South on the international market, designed by the Institut français in close collaboration with the Cannes Festival. 

Learn more about the Fabrique Cinéma


L'institut français, LAB