“The Dissident,” now available on VOD/Digital, is a detailed documentary about the October 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist and political commentator Jamal Khashoggi that plays like a thriller.
With over two million Twitter followers, Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian dissident, author, columnist for The Washington Post, was the most famous political pundit in the Arab world. An outspoken critic of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi lived in exile and, in October 2018, entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to file some papers related to his upcoming marriage.
He never left the building.
We now know he was killed and dismembered with bone saws in the consulate, but it was two weeks, and hundreds of headlines later, when forensic evidence uncovered the brutal slaying and a cover-up that suggested Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s grisly slaughter.
Director Bryan Fogel goes behind the headlines, meticulously sorting through the information and misinformation to provide chilling context to the tragic events surrounding Khashoggi’s assassination. Using talking head interviews with the late journalist’s friends and colleagues, stylish graphics and even animation, he gives the film a forward momentum that dismantles a global cover-up and culminates in an unsettling retelling of the murder by a forensic expert who coolly reads a transcript made from tapes of the event. It is disturbing to say the least, made more so by the clinical presentation.
The hard-hitting “The Dissident” does not mince words. It occasionally feels like a story that could have come straight from the pen of Frederick Forsyth or John le Carré, but as it examines the machinations of Khashoggi’s death, it also paints a picture of his values and love of his country. It is urgent filmmaking that unequivocally points the finger of guilt at bin Salman and wonders aloud about the fate of others who wish to speak their minds in the face of a free speech clampdown. There isn’t much new information here, just expertly presented facts.