The Reel Review


This is the shocking documentary about Washington Post columnist and Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom the Saudis killed and horrifyingly dismembered on October 2, 2018 inside their consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. The film incorporates audio, video and other documentation from Turkey’s investigation into the killing, revealing the motive and manner in a plot the CIA says was authorized by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who denies involvement.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Jamal Khashoggi in The Dissident.

Bryan Fogel, Oscar winner for his 2017 documentary Icarus, about Russia’s doping of its Olympic athletes, weaves a compelling story, including not only the shocking details of Khashoggi’s murder, but the Saudi government’s ongoing cyber warfare campaign against its enemies, which includes dissident Omar Abdulaziz and even the world’s richest person, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. It is shocking and unnerving. Set to an ominous, pulse-pounding score, the documentary has the riveting pace and feel of a Jason Bourne type spy thriller — only this story is real.

Twice-impeached U.S. President Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman in The Dissident. 

The film also shines a harsh spotlight on twice-impeached U.S. President Donald Trump, who was quick to ignore Khashoggi’s murder to preserve his friendship and business dealings with the Saudi Crown Prince. Despite moments of repetition, the film also reveals the personal side of Khashoggi, the former Saudi insider turned whistleblower, as it reminds us of the importance of freedom of speech and those rulers who work to squelch that.


• Director Bryan Fogel says about a month after Khashoggi’s death, he spent five weeks in Istanbul with Khashoggi’s fiancé Hatice Cengiz, to get her cooperation for the film.

• Briarcliff Entertainment agreed to distribute The Dissident after none of the major streaming platforms – Netflix, Apple, Amazon – refused even to bid on it. Fogel says they fear backlash from Saudi Arabia’s government, which closely monitors and censors films, television, books, magazines, newspapers and internet content.

A 2018 White House meeting between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. President Donald Trump.

• In July 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump vetoed bipartisan efforts by both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to block an $8 billion arms sale and hold Saudi Arabia accountable for Khashoggi’s killing.


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