Sacha Baron Cohen is to star in a film of Zabibah and the King, a romantic novel written by Iraqi dictator. The novel tells a tale of a wise and good Iraqi leader who falls in love with a humble peasant girl. Re-titled The Dictator, Cohen will be transforming the story from a romantic love story into a political comedy.
The Guardian reports that Zabibah and the King was published anonymously in 2000, complete with a strap-line that promised royalties would go “to the poor, the orphans, the miserable, the needy”. It is widely accepted within Iraq that the book was authored by Saddam, although the CIA later concluded that it was probably produced by ghost-writers, acting under direct instruction from the Iraqi leader. The book charts the chaste love affair between a medieval monarch and the soulful Zabibah, who lives unhappily with her abusive husband. But what appears, at first glance, to be a sweet, simple folk tale actually contains pools of hidden meaning. It was intended to be read as an allegory for Iraq in the years following the first Gulf war, with the king representing Saddam, Zabibah embodying the Iraqi people and her husband standing in for the cruel and evil US forces.
The Dictator begins filming this year with a scheduled release date of May 11 2012 and will b directed by Larry Charles.