A Day in the Life of a Dictator

2015, History  -  93 min Leave a Comment
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A probing documentary of great imagination and scope, A Day in the Life of a Dictator explores the mindset of three tyrannical leaders during periods of time that defined their reigns. The trio of dictators - Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin Dada and Muammar Gaddafi - are brought to life through searing accounts from historians and witnesses, revealing stock footage, and inventive photo-realistic replications of the leaders as they function hour-by-hour through each tumultuous event.

"Once he decided to attain absolute power, he would never relinquish it," observes Alexandre Allilouiev, nephew of Joseph Stalin. "He was a monster." In order to achieve his goals, Stalin set about re-imaging the vast empire in his own image, which included the extermination of all those who dared oppose or refused to adhere to his ideology. The film follows the activities of Stalin on November 24, 1938 - a crucial day that set in motion the end of his Great Purge.

Muammar Gaddafi is shown rising from his bed the morning of June 28, 1996. A man driven and destroyed by an insatiable need for wealth and excess, Gaddafi lies in fearful hiding from those who seek to end his unspeakably ruthless reign. The film dramatizes one of the bloodiest chapters in Libyan history, as inmates at Abu Salim prison plan a revolt against the countless cruelties and human rights violations they've been forced to suffer under the orders of Gaddafi. This event will culminate in the brutal massacre of nearly 1300 of these prisoners.

"People were scared of him, and also he was scared of the people," says Babby Salamshyda of her father, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada. One of the people who provoked Amin's fear was a member of his own family who planned to overthrow him. The film dramatizes the events of March 26, 1974, when Amin set in motion a plan to quell this familial threat.

Each dictator is characterized by an all-encompassing thirst for absolute power, a gnawing paranoia of their own people, and a willingness to commit the most garish acts of violence when their dominance is threatened. Stunning in its ability to place these horrific dictatorships in a human context, A Day in the Life of a Dictator is a unique and vital living history.