Series Review – House of Saddam | Pakistan Today

Series Review – House of Saddam

When portraying tyrants and dictators to larger audiences, more often than not, historical accounts and present-day narratives tend to present only the monster behind mass murders, atrocities and human suffering. We tend to forget that behind that rather overbearing veneer of cruelty lies a human, a family man, a father and a son.
To tell a personalized account of a tyrant, not lacking in entertainment, whilst maintaining historical accuracy and objectivity is certainly a tightrope act in Cinema. Co-produced by the BBC and HBO and directed by Alex Holmes, ‘House of Saddam’ (2008) provides an insiders view into the life and tribulations of Saddam Hussein (Yigal Naor), Iraqi strongman, megalomaniac and dedicated family man.
Enthralling and addictive, ‘House of Saddam’ provides the viewer with the adrenaline rush of an action movie and the intellectual stimulation of a documentary. The docudrama, spanning 4 episodes, takes the viewer through 24 long meandering years of Saddam’s bloody, genocidal and autocratic rule. With gripping and poignant detail, the audience is allowed a glimpse into the Iraqi corridors of power under Saddam Hussein, ruling over his country with an absolute and omnipresent sense of fear.
Each episode takes on a particular era under Saddam Hussein, starting with Saddam’s bloody takeover of Iraq and the Ba’ath Party, The original Gulf War followed by the second Gulf war between Iraq and Kuwait and ending with the invasion of Iraq and Saddam’s eventual capture and execution. It may sound dull and boring, more like a lesson in history than anything else, but take this writers word for it, first and foremost, ‘House of Saddam’ is an entertainer.
Keeping in mind that HoS was an HBO production, the amount of effort and detail that went into recreating the sets and costumes came as no surprise. The sets instill a sense of awe and power in the viewers mind, bringing out the obscene extravagance that Saddam Hussein surrounded himself with. As for the costumes, HoS won an Emmy for ‘Outstanding Costume’, need more be said? But, regardless of the script or the sets, without a cast to match, no theatrical piece can hold its own, let alone flourish.
With much ease and a tinge of flair, the cast carries the script on its back and delivers a truly inspiring performance. Yigal Naor (who ironically is an Israeli) as Saddam Hussein, captures the essence of Hussein as a delusional, egoistical dictator driven by an all consuming desire for power, or maybe the desire for Iraqi greatness.
Uday Hussein, the sociopath and volatile son of Saddam, is beautifully portrayed by Phillip Addriti. Others include the Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, who won an Emmy for her portrayal of Saddam’s First wife, Sajida Hussein. As an ode to its casting, the series won an Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries or Movie.’
However, there is one little hitch that I found hard to get over, the narrative tends to whitewash America and Britain’s role in the Middle East. This particular reason, however, tended not to downplay or override other positive aspects of the series. For anyone slightly interested in politics or for anyone looking for a way out of boredom, HoS will deliver, irrespective of demographics. HoS will keep you hooked till the end.

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