‘The Dissident’ is not only an outstanding piece of work, but it’s a warning about the fact that no one is safe no matter who you are or where you are.
At moments, but don’t fear them because it doesn’t get preachy, the film waxes political, leaving everyone watching curious as to why the current administration in the United States considers Saudi Arabia their close associates. Before I get too far into the review, I have to inform you that the documentary, one of two out this year about the main subject, Jamal Khashoggi, is a must-see.
Khashoggi was a journalist who left Saudi Arabia and ended up working for Jeff Bezos at the Washington Post. The question as to why he left his homeland is answered here, leaving you bewildered. When he abruptly relocated, he also left his wife and children behind. She later divorces him. Having said that, ‘The Dissident’ is centered around the well-known reporters’ murder in 2018, which shocked and astounded the entire world.
Director Bryan Fogel, who directed ‘Icarus,’ does a magnificent job of captivating his audience in a terrifying way that a viewer may not expect. He does this by imparting on you the impression that you or someone you know could be next. Knowing the very kindhearted Khashoggi can be callously murdered, it’s easy to believe anyone can be. Quite frankly, the why and where he’s murdered, is horrifying.
Where was he killed? Khashoggi was inside of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. He’s made to go there, which gets suspicious, by the way, to get his marriage license. It’s painful watching his fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, speak of him and their plans to marry. At one point, she talks about him as she sits in his favorite chair in the house he just bought, the home he’d never occupy again. Now for the why. Khashoggi, who was disappointed with recent decisions the Saudi government was making, spoke out against them. Once a friend to the regime, this upset them. Speaking out is something one dares not do.
The documentary more than suggests that the new Crown Prince, Muhammad bin Salman, broadly known as MBA, heard of Khashoggi’s opposition. It points to MBS being the reason Khashoggi is no longer alive. Whoever killed him had him tortured, which has all the earmarks of an angry ruler. Since then, Saudi Arabia has executed men they found to be ‘guilty’ of the murder. When seeing and hearing the evidence, these convictions and deaths seem way too convenient.
After Khashoggi’s death, audio and video from the Saudi embassy were secured and released by Turkish police. Speaking of, you’re not spared the voice of poor Jamal in his last moments. However, it’s not exploitative or too graphic, thankfully, but hard to witness nonetheless. It seems as though Fogel uses it because he simply wants justice for Khashoggi. He certainly deserves it after what he went through.
Fogel interviews Omar Abdulaziz at length during the film. Omar is a 27-year-old dissident, or nonconformist, from Saudi Arabia but is now living safely in Canada. Fogel is interested in what he and Khashoggi were doing together. They created a network of voices, the ‘Bee Army’ to speak against the Twitter trolls, the ‘Flies,’ produced by Saudi operatives that would spin everything Saudi in a good light. What he offers is compelling and rather informative. Even though he’s in Canada, you fear for Omar, as well, especially when it’s revealed that his brothers are imprisoned for his actions.
This investigative documentary is genuinely revealing, examining Khashoggi’s death and highlighting what a good man he was. However, this is done with an extreme lack of the man himself. More interviews with Jamal are about Fogel’s only miss. This effort would have helped those unaware of who he was, with feeling more for the loss. But, there are moments of real anguish, mainly centered around his grieving fiancé, that will break your heart. Interviews with former key figures of the American government lend to the authenticity of Fogel’s statements and the crime he exposes within his film. Don’t miss ‘The Dissident.’
*Arizona! ‘The Dissident’ will be playing at these theaters on Friday, Harkins Chandler Fashion Center 20, Harkins Estrella Falls 16, Harkins Springs 25, Harkins Arrowhead Fountains 18, Harkins Norterra 14, Harkins Queen Creek 14, Harkins Camelview at Fashion Square, Harkins Tempe Marketplace 16
**It will be released on PVOD Friday, January 8th.
Director: Bryan Fogel
Writers: Bryan Fogel, Mark Monroe
Stars: Omar Abdulaziz, Fahrettin Altun, John O. Brennan
Running Time: 1h 59m
Genre: Documentary, Crime, Thriller