From his rise to power to his eventual downfall and execution, the BBC along with HBO Films, produced a four-part miniseries about the life of Saddam Hussein that aired a few days ago. As far as a drama TV production, I have to admit, House Of Saddam was pretty good. It kind of reminded me what The Sopranos might look like had it taken place in the Arab world. And, love him or hate him, I also have to admit that Saddam’s life did have its Soprano-like moments. Whether the series is balanced or one-sided is up to the viewer really. I’ve read enough on Saddam’s life to be able to identify many of the events portrayed as factual, however, one always has to be wary of dramatizations.
Whether you saw him as a hero or an evil dictator, the one underlying truth about Saddam was that he was a man who seized power, and like any authoritarian, iron-fisted leader, spent the rest of his life struggling to keep it. So I have to give this series some credit as it attempts to showcase that struggle and the measures he took to preserve his power, spending the latter part of his years shrouded in suspicion and betraying himself in the end.
The series starts with Saddam’s family scrambling to leave Baghdad as Bush announces the invasion on TV in 2003, only to rewind to the beginning: 1979, the Iranian revolution taking place, Iraq’s planned unification with Syria and Saddam forcing Ahmad Al-Bakr to resign at his daughter’s birthday party. The second episode concentrates on the 1980’s with a closer look at Saddam’s sons – especially Uday’s well known wild ways – while the third episode covers the 1990’s and an Iraq dying under UN sanctions. The final part is about the invasion and Saddam hiding out. The show’s producers did good to emphasize in this episode particularly, much of the story was based on various relayed facts, but that little is known about Saddam’s time in hiding. Again, the show does not go in to the details of everything surrounding Iraqi’s history in the past 30 years, but focuses greatly on Saddam himself and the principle moments of his life.
Perhaps ironically, Saddam is portrayed by Yigal Naor, an Israeli of Iraqi-Jewish decent. The performance was pretty good, and again, for some reason, Saddam felt like Tony Soprano in an Iraqi army uniform some times. Shohreh Aghdashloo plays Saddam’s wife and the only reason I point her out is because she’s an Iranian actress who pretty much plays the role of every Arab/Muslim female character over 40 in Hollywood these days. Meanwhile, Palestinian-Israeli, Makram Khoury, who is also a recognized face in these circles, plays the role of Tareq Aziz.
Jordan’s Nadim Sawalha plays the late King Hussein for a brief scene, even though they look nothing alike except for, perhaps, the notable stature.
Again, while many of the events are factual, the dramatization means you have to watch this type of documentation with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, it is an interesting watch, especially if you’re also looking forward to Oliver Stone’s flick, “W” this fall.
Naturally, House Of Saddam is available at Hammoudeh’s DVD shop in the balad.
You can watch the first eight minutes of the miniseries on YouTube:
somehow the characters in this show don’t look enough evil as Saddam and his sons! But hey I need to check it out, is on you tube?
I liked the series so much especially because the tried to be objective with the characters as much as possible, i liked the charachter of odai i think Philip Arditti did a great job,the best scene for me would be when odai and qusay where sitting in a bunker during the 2nd gulf war waiting fot the american army to invade iraq and odai stares at his brother and tells him that if the american army reaches baghdad i want to put a bullet in saddam’s head and qusay replis by telling him i wanna do that with you!!! that was class 🙂
Thanks for the review! look forward to watching it!
A few months ago Channel 4 (UK based) aired a drama/documentary on Saddam called Saddam’s Tribe. I thought it was quite interesting – it was based on the narration of Saddam’s daughter… which added an insightful, if subjective, perspective. If you do get to watch that, let us know what you think!
Ali: only the first eight minutes. you’ll have to buy the dvds from the balad
Ammar: I think the scene you’re talking about is uday and qusay talking about their step brother and not their father saddam.
Deena: hmm, sounds interesting. i’ll try to get my hands on it if i can.
I watched a couple of episodes, it’s not bad!!
Do you know if some of the scenes were shot in Jordan?
I thought the location-site-scape looked familiar!
For those who don’t get access to BBC, you can streamline all past week material online at:
Absolute power is always intriguing isnâ€™t it?!
When one watches Henry VIII drama the Tudors (also on BBC2); one also wonders if Saddam or any other modern absolute power figure can really measure up – Just a fragmented thought!
No, it was filmed in Tunisia, from what I remember.
Glad to see it’s made its way to Amman!
I really enjoyed the series. And I love your comparison of the show to the Sporanos, that’s exactly how I felt when I watched it.
What I think I liked the most about it is the fact that they correctly showed the American invadors as bloodthirsty as Saddam. A fact hidden from a lot of people in the west.
it was so biased its disgusting……..from his capture to his hanging they gave it 3 seconds, yes 3 seconds! whilst say the death of hussein kamil was given 1 whole episode! 1 hour!, plus you could easily spot a lot of inconsistencies (giving saddam’s mother the role of calling the shots behind the scene, all the drinks when it was well knows saddam didnt drink, surrendering out of the hole immediatly when we know he was drugged ect.) and then the biggest insult of all > saddam played by israeli actor and his wife played by iranian actor! LOL have u ever seen a german playing churchill?!
Londoner~It is well known that movies about Hitler have been played by Jewish actors. . .