THE DISSIDENT – Review by Diane Carson

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The Dissident reveals the details of Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination.

The pre-meditated, ruthless murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate received serious news coverage as information became known. Now, director Bryan Fogel’s documentary The Dissident reveals many more details, equally alarming. Fogel’s research and interviews meticulously explain the vindictive attack resulting from Khashoggi’s critique of the Saudi government and that country’s responsibility for his assassination.

Beginning in Montreal, January 20, 2018, three months after Khashoggi’s death, Omar Abdulaziz initiates the revelations with specifics here and threaded throughout the narrative. A supporter and friend of Jamal, unable himself to return to Saudi Arabia, Omar currently needs the protection of the Canadian government because of his opposition to and knowledge of the Saudi involvement in quashing journalistic critiques and silencing those who write them. Khashoggi was one such courageous man who refused to surrender to intimidation.

Director Bryan Fogel doesn’t stop there in his indictment of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (called MBS), the person he explicitly charges with sanctioning Jamal’s murder. Extensive, well-researched evidence supports his case. Fogel provides historical background, notes the Egyptian revolution as the biggest turning point in Jamal’s life, interviews numerous officials including David Ignatius (Associate Editor of the Washington Post), past and present CIA directors, and more.

In addition, Jamal’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, speaks movingly at the United Nations and for this film of her relationship with Khashoggi and the paperwork needed for their marriage that lured Jamal to the Istanbul embassy. Regarding that, Fogel does not mince words, reading through the horrifying transcript of the assassination and its aftermath. The evidence is conclusive for everyone except President Trump, whose comments are also included here.

At times annoyingly, Fogel employs flashy graphics, some animation for Saudi activists versus trolls, pixilation, and quick edits. Nevertheless, Fogel courageously pulls back the curtain to reveal the ugly truth of Khashoggi’s death. In English plus Arabic and Turkish with English subtitles, The Dissident screens at select cinemas and will be available through video on demand beginning January 8.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.