Dictators and Despots: A Timewatch Guide

Dictators and Despots: A Timewatch Guide



The excellent David Olusoga meditates on how television has charted the rise and fall of despots. Mussolini, Hitler, Castro, Gaddafi, Saddam, Mugabe – we see archive footage charting how each of them has been shaped and seduced by the camera lens.

We see a young Gaddafi eating a modest breakfast of bread and milk, then climbing into the driving seat of his modest Renault while the reporter notes, “He’s a good-looking man…”

And chillingly, we hear John Simpson’s description from 2002 of Saddam Hussein’s “arsenal” of weapons of mass destruction, which Simpson assesses to be “bigger than anyone imagined…”


David Olusoga examines 50 years of BBC documentary archives to try and discover why dictators can have such a powerful appeal. He uncovers the surprising optimism felt by the West towards men like Gaddafi and Mugabe early in their regimes, and examines events that turned this optimism into horror.

Cast & Crew

Presenter David Olusoga