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: