Caliphate ~ A Non-Spoiler Review

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Photo montage of scenes from Caliphate. The central image is the poster for the show.


Caliphate (2020) is a Swedish Crime/Drama/Thriller miniseries on Netflix internationally with 8 x 47 min episodes. In Swedish, Arabic, Turkish and English with subtitles and close captioning (dubbing available).


“Agent Fatima gets a tip that a terrorist act is planned in Sweden. At the same time, teenager Sulle has opened her eyes to her student assistant who opens the doors to a new fascinating world.” IMDb

Gizem Erdogan as Pervin
Amed Bozan as Husam
Aliette Opheim as Fatima
Albin Grenholm as Calle
Nora Rios as Sulle
Amanda Sohrabi as Kerima
Lancelot Ncube as Ibbe
Said William Legue as Omar
Yussra El Abdouni as Alisha
Simon Mezher as Süleyman
Ala Riani as Tuba
Arvin Kananian as Nadir
Jonatan Qahoush as Khalaf
Ahmad Al Zoghbi as Fadi
Nils Wetterholm as Emil
Marcus Vögeli as Jakob
Kalled Mustonen as Björn

Writers: Wilhelm Behrman, Niklas Rockström
Director: Goran Kapetanovic
Composer: Sophia Ersson
Cinematographer: Jonas Alarik
Editors: Malin Lindström, Håkan Wärn
Costume Designers: Linn Eklund,
Music Supervisor: Markus Bergkvist


Lancelot Ncube won the Stockholm Film Festival Rising Star Award in 2020 principally as a result of his performance as Ibbe in Caliphate.

Locations: Stockholm, Sweden and Jordan.

From a review on IMDb by maceoin:
“As a former lecturer in Arabic and Islamic studies, who has written a major report on radicalisation in Muslim schools, and who has written many articles about radical Islam, I was worried that this series might be filled with all sorts of misunderstandings and inaccuracies and mistakes. In fact, it was well researched, down to subtle things such as distinguishing between jihad al-akbar and jihad al-asghar, using both terms in Arabic. And saying fard (duty) without translation. The portrayal of ISIS in Raqqa seemed to me most convincing, based as it was on authentic film and reportage.”

Wilhelm Behrman and Niklas Rockström also wrote Before We Die and The Unlikely Murderer together as well as working on projects such as Alex.

Gizem Erdogan as Previn in a scene from Caliphate


Rewatching a series or film can be a strange experience. For me, this rewatch of the Swedish series Caliphate was certainly that. I had abiding memories of the series and yet there were things I had completely forgotten about or only had the vaguest recollection of when I watched again. I had not really expected watching to be a more intense experience the second time (I did not think it could be as the first was very intense) but I found most of it even more nerve-wracking the second time. Sometimes ignorance is (relative) bliss.

Gizem Erdogan as Pervin (foreground with baby) and Amex Bozan as Husam in a scene from Caliphate

The performances in Caliphate are universally excellent, from both major and minor players. No doubt these are helped by the high quality of the script. You can see exactly why Gizem Erdogan and Amed Bozan won Kristallen Awards as they are both outstanding in very demanding roles. A big shout also to Lancelot Ncube who plays the part of Ibbe so well, especially as the character appears in different guises depending upon who he is with, or trying to influence. I am surprised he did not receive a nomination for his performance in this. Aliette Opheim turns in a very good performance as the maverick and flawed Fatima. The two young actresses playing Sulle and Karima are ones to watch and I loved the portrayal of Sulle’s mother and father by Simon Mezher and Ala Riani. More minor details players such as Arvin Kananian and Said William Legue also really impress throughout this.

Nora Rios as Sulle (right) Lancelot Ncube as Ibbe (centre) and Amanda Sohrabi as Kerima (left) in a scene from Caliphate

The overall structure of this show, unsurprisingly given the stable from which it comes, is great. There are a few plot holes and the occasional “well that was convenient for the story” moments but they never stood in the way of my “enjoying” this immensely.

I loved the way this was directed including the ease of the switch from Stockholm to Raqqa (and elsewhere) that was often achieved by the colour palette used. The music (both the original score and the soundtrack) was very fitting and enhanced tension still further in parts. Make no mistake, this show has an immense amount of dramatic tension in parts.

Simon Mezher as Süleyman in a scene from Caliphate

I felt an immense amount of sympathy for these parents who suffer so much as a result of what is, in essence, teenage rebellion and the desire of a younger sibling to emulate her older sister.

One of the most interesting aspects of Caliphate is how recruitment to an extremist organisation can take place. I appreciated that it looked at two very different routes in to becoming enmeshed and different weaknesses that were exploited by the recruiter. In many respects, the recruitment of the girls is little different from that of grooming by a paedophile ring. The young men could equally have been recruited to the extreme right-wing had the elder fallen under that influence in jail.

Aliette Opheim as Fatima in a scene from Caliphate

Making the main “good guy”, Fatima, flawed made it a far more uncomfortable watch than it otherwise would have been.

Arvin Kananian as Nadir in a scene from Caliphate

I think that a series like Caliphate should be compulsory viewing in that it shows how complex the reasons are for the young (especially the very young girls) wanting to go to Syria (or elsewhere) as brides of Daesh/IS. They are children! Also, how the blame often apportioned to their parents, and, indeed, whole communities and a whole faith is over-simplistic, misplaced and unjust.

Parts of Caliphate are almost unbearably intense, others are deeply shocking and still others tragic. The finale itself has a lot packed into it and is for the most part unrelentingly intense.

In the end, I was left with deep abiding sadness at the sheer tragedy of it all combined with outrage at the “ones that got away”.

Very highly recommended!


2 Wins & 2 Nominations

Kristallen Awards (2020) Best Actor ~ Amed Bozan
Best Actress ~ Gizem Erdogan

Kristallen Awards (2020) Best Television Drama ~ Tomas Michaelsson, Filmlance International
Best Actress ~ Aliette Opheim


More Swedish TV Shows:

For those who are fans of Nordic/Scandi TV shows and films there is a great affiliated Facebook Page:

This online publication also has its own Facebook Page with a wide variety of content:

Also on Facebook is the group More Than Only Walter Presents which has its focus firmly on non-English language TV shows, films, dramas and documentaries:

More TV Reviews:

More Non-Spoiler Reviews:

More Spoiler Reviews:

More Film Reviews:

Thanks for reading this article, please feel free to comment