According to Variety, Chanel 4’s upcoming series Baghdad Central is based on the novel by Elliott Colla and its set in 2003 Baghdad after Saddam Hussain has fallen and the Coalition forces want to secure the country. Baghdad Central is told mainly from the point of view of ordinary occupied Iraqi citizens, like former inspector Muhsin al-Khafaji of the Iraqi police, once an upright respected cop, and his two daughters, the gravely ill Mrouj (July Namir, (Homeland, Collateral) and the estranged Sawsan (Leem Lubany, Omar, Condor).
The American forces are seen as the barbarians who try to secure the country. When Khafaji’s daughter Sawsan goes missing, he suspects that she has joined the resistance and accepts a job as police offered by Frank Temple (Bertie Carvel, Jonathan Strange), an ex-British cop working for the Coalition. Khafaji, a hero for the times, accepts this job in order to obtain Green Zone medical treatment for Mrouj and also to find Sawsan before Coalition forces do. Baghdad Central quickly unfolds as a survival thriller set in a foreign land, which is quite relatable as human drama.
Variety interviewed BAFTA-nominated Butchard (The Last Kingdom, House of Saddam) before the series’ world premiere in main International Competition at Series Mania. What makes this story relatable is Khafaji’s struggle to save his daughters. “What makes this story universal or international is that at its core, is the relationship between and the love of a father for his daughters. His daughters are in danger and therefore he must and will do everything in his power to help them, in this case, survive,” Butchard explained. Furthermore, the setting of Iraq in 2003 and the global events unusually explored from the viewpoint of an ordinary family add “texture, intrigue, suspense and of course threat – but the family remain front and centre,” Butchard added.
According to Butchard, the story is from an Iraqi perspective, but it is also from a family’s perspective, and this family has to survive. The love and fractures within this family are similar to those of families worldwide, and this allows us to identify ourselves with Khafaji and his daughters. “Khafaji and his daughters are us. It is the world in which they exist that changes, and as that world begins to change, as they are confronted by threat, danger and a loss of hope,” Butchard said.
Kate Harwood, Butchard and Troughton are the executive producers, while Jonathan Curling (The Secret) is the producer. UK transmission is in the hands of Channel 4.