Uncle Saddam

Joël Soler.| 67 minutes. Joël Soler Productions.

Composed of candid, backstage footage of Saddam Hussein somehow smuggled out of Baghdad, this is a shockingly satirical documentary, a profile so uflattering that its director, Joël Soler, has been the target of numerous death threats in the two years since its first screening. Indeed, until a recent screening at the Amnesty International Film Festival brought it to the attention of Cinemax (which will air it in November), Soler had thought this portrait of America's worst enemy might never be seen in public again.

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If the Bush administration hasn't yet convinced you that Saddam is a madman, this documentary just might. "Uncle Saddam" -- as he's called here by the children of his overworked interior designer -- is clearly a troubled soul: The first thing we hear about him is the rumor that his mother tried to have him aborted. This may or may not account for the sundry and hilarious pathologies revealed in the movie: the deep-seated fear of germs, the fishing trips with hand grenades, the compulsion to erect countless monuments to his own greatness -- not to mention his fetish for lace wallpaper.

The filmmaking nearly matches its subject in audacity: Soler provokes the guiltiest laughter at one turn, only to slap the smile off your face with images of maimed and starving Iraqi youth at the next. Backed by a profoundly inappropriate soundtrack of Mideast-flavored techno, Uncle Saddam is the documentary equivalent of The Producers' "Springtime for Hitler" routine. It makes The Eyes of Tammy Faye look like The Sorrow and the Pity.