Film Reviews

The Dissident – Documentary Review

Imagine a person rich beyond their wildest dreams; they own something the whole world wants and needs, they are royalty, and they have the power to control just about anything and everything. If you wrong this person, they are so powerful they simply have you erased from existence and no one can stop them because the world bows to their every whim.

Unfortunately, this is not some sexy plot to the latest thriller to hit cinemas, it is real life. The man with all the power is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad bin Salman, and the man who crossed him and eventually paid the ultimate price is Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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The world watched with mouths agape over two years ago, when Khashoggi entered the Saudi embassy on Turkish soil on 2nd October 2018, never to emerge again alive. Now with the release of the new documentary by Brian Fogel, The Dissident, the public is reminded how a man was lured, systematically killed, and his murder covered up, as the world stood by and did nothing. The reason was simple: the man simply had an opinion different than the leaders of his country.

The movie delves into a world most don’t understand or believe exists, where the leaders of certain countries have absolute power without consequences, simply because they control a black liquid the rest of the planet desperately needs. Fogel’s telling of the circumstances around Khashoggi’s death is comprehensive. Interviews with law enforcement from Turkey; the CIA; the United Nations; countless other ‘dissidents’ who have since had to flee their own country in order to remain alive; his fiancée, who was planning a life with Khashoggi; many other reputable journalists; and news footage galore of everyone involved. A thorough retelling of the Turkish investigation into the murder, complete with transcripts of the actual murder of the man are also included. It seems that this film has been fearless in obtaining every piece of pertinent information that points the guilty finger at Mohammad bin Salman (also known as MBS).

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This documentary does well to explain the hierarchy of the Saudi government and the events that led up to the Crown Prince ordering the elimination of someone he felt had betrayed him. Even if you are someone that knows nothing of the name Khashoggi and know nothing of his demise, this movie does well to inform exactly and fully the events of that fateful day and subsequent investigation. It paints a picture of a country and government that have done exactly what they wanted simply because they can. Comprehensive is the evidence against the Saudi Prince, well documented and explained plainly for all to understand, and yet the man still walks free.

Hearts will break with the interview of his intended, Hatice Cengiz, showing off their wedding bands, the apartment that they intended to live in after marrying, his beloved Lazy Boy chair, which he smiles ear to ear sitting in ready to begin his life with his new wife; and then again Hatice, alone, touring the apartment that would never be the newlyweds’ home. She sits alone in the chair he sat in, now mourning the life that was ended too soon. They are seen walking hand in hand on closed circuit security cameras to the consulate to get the official paperwork to be married. It was never meant to be though, because a posse of 15 men had assembled inside to carry out Khashoggi’s brutal murder. In a conference room, no less, most likely so it could be streamed to the person that ordered it done, MBS.

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Khashoggi’s fellow dissident and friend, Omar Abdulaziz, is also a large part of the story. He confirms the culture that each of them had to leave behind and the consequences and fear they both lived with in crossing a man with boundless and unlimited power. No one is out of reach of MBS. The documentary shows that even Americans, as rich as Jeff Bezos or as powerful as the president, are just puppets for the man with unlimited power and resources. Connected to technology that is beyond any layperson’s understanding, MBS can get anywhere and find anything. And when he doesn’t get what he wants, just like an old movie mobster, he goes after your family that you had to leave behind.

This movie is difficult to watch, but even harder to ignore. It answers so many questions, and yet leaves one burning question that at this point in time no one is able to answer in spite of all the overwhelming evidence. And that is, how does the world stand by and do nothing while MBS and his country are permitted to murder, with premeditation, dismember, dispose of, cover up the death of a citizen, and not be held accountable? Since that fateful day, the guilty still run free, and hopefully this documentary shines a light once again on Khashoggi’s gruesome death and compels the world to bring to justice those that are responsible.

The Dissident will have its UK Premiere online at the Glasgow Film Festival on 6th March, and Irish Premiere online at the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival on 13th. March. For more information visit www.thedissident.film

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