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Shadows of a Leader: Qaddafi's Female Bodyguards (2004)

 -  Documentary  -  April 2004 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.7/10 from 82 users  
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The documentary investigates the phenomenon of Qaddafi's elite female bodyguard corps and the tensions these women embody: tensions between Islam, modernisation in a nomadic society, a militarist feminism and an urban dictatorship.



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Cast overview:
Herself - Narrator
Himself - Dictator, Libya (archive footage)
Fatima Elalem ...
Herself - Revolutionary Guard
Muammer Ben Saed ...
Himself - Bodyguard
Fathiya Tabishat ...
Herself - Revolutionary Guard (as Colonel Fathiya Tabishat)
Hosni Ben Saed ...
Himself - Bodyguard
Marlin El-Mahalli ...
Herself - Journalist & Teacher
Sabria Harikat ...
Herself - Revolutionary Guard


Ms. Ajami's ambitious documentary takes a fascinating look inside one of the Mid-East's most unusual military units, Libya's elite female military corps assigned to guard the country's supreme leader, Mohmmar Qaddafi. The film examines how these women embody the tension between Islam and modernization in a nomadic society, between feminism and an old-style dictatorship. Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

April 2004 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$30,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Strange form of feminism
17 September 2010 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

I'm glad I saw this but it wasn't fun to watch.

I was intrigued by the idea of female bodyguards for a politician once described as the world's most handsome thug. However, the women seem to be used for show by a dictator who has them totally brainwashed about his "ideology." This documentary is interesting for the views it provides into life in Libya's comparatively liberal capital. We hear a lot from a female Army officer with real star power who is extremely articulate in spouting the party line. Qaddafi is shown in countless cult-of-personality public paintings but, oddly, he isn't quoted on camera.

I saw this film, which has reportedly been seen in 20 countries but hasn't been released in the US, at the City University of New York, where the director took questions afterward. She said she didn't even request an interview of Qaddafi because she didn't want him to steal the show. I thought this showed a remarkable lack of curiosity given that she could have edited anything he said down to size.

The film has a few funny moments, such as when the world-weary, cynical male head of the female military academy asks whether the filmmaker would like to join his corps so she can learn how to guard her camera equipment. And male officials in the Libyan maritime agency blatantly showed their boredom with the aforementioned lady Army official.

Definitely worth seeing -- if you can somehow gain access.

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