My Father Was A Mercenary Review: Barmy Army

June 26, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

2FIRST CUT – MY FATHER WAS A MERCENARY: Friday 26th June, Channel 4, 7:35pm Alert Me

There’s a habit among documentary makers of giving programmes the most sensationalist titles that they can in order to bring in an audience.

Often this isn’t representative of what the documentary is actually about.

Take Tears, Tiaras and Transsexuals which at first glance appeared to be some glorified gawk-a-minute freak show but was actually one of the most brilliant pieces of TV in recent memory. Or The World’s Best Diet, on earlier this week which shamelessly leapt on the nation’s food-obsessed band wagon and offered nothing more informative than “put down that cake?.

My Father the Mercenary sounds like an exciting undercover expose about a solider for hire and his grisly adventures in foreign lands. Actually it’s a look at SAS fantasist and all-round Looney Tune Phil Sessarago whose badly decomposed body was found in a garage in Antwerp.

Phil wrote a book called Jihad in September 2001, which was released the day before the 9/11 attacks. The event catapulted him into the limelight and his book was a raging success until a Newsnight crew exposed him as a fraud. His daughter then told the Daily Mirror that she “wouldn’t care if someone killed him,? he vanished and his family haven’t heard from him since.

At only half an hour it’s a very short documentary, if you can even call it that. It offers no insight or speculation into why he died other than “it might have been some mercenaries that he once double-crossed.?

His daughter and son are shown combing through the remains of his pokey lock up, raking through his possessions and getting angry that he kept no photos of them, but other than revealing their conflicted emotions about their father, there seems little point in this. His daughter, Claire, keeps harping on about “finding answers? but as she hasn’t seen him for more than 15 years and the last thing she did was rant about him to a tabloid newspaper, it’s hard to see why she’s even doing this other than out of morbid curiosity and to assuage her own guilt.

There are brief interviews with people who knew him but they reveal nothing other than his obsession with his book which was self-evident and that “he wasn’t happy?. Louis Theroux this isn’t.

So, yes, documentary makers have misled us all again. My Father the Mercenary should be renamed “Publicity Hungry Harpy Remembers: My Deluded SAS Dad?.

Not as catchy granted, but a hell of a lot more accurate.


Jez Sands

For more mental shenanigans, check our our review of On Thin Ice (Fogle & Co battle flesh eating viruses to reach the pinnacle of the coldest continent on the planet. Or for more ‘reality’ war joys, check out our review of Airforce Afghanistan.

mr bean says:

“There are brief interviews with people who knew him but they reveal nothing other than his obsession with his book which was self-evident and that “he wasn’t happy?.”

This is a very unfair situation and a catch 22: someone is branded a lair and a fantasist because the truth may not be told and lies have to be the truth. It will take another 80 odd years before all is on the table.

Work it out yourselves.
Injustice is the word, even if the man was a sh*t at times.