Jamal Khashoggi’s mysterious disappearance pointing to his gruesome murder in the Turkish Consulate. Following in Kashoggi’s footsteps, Director Bryan Fogel uses a method of reporting that the journalist might have himself used to methodically present facts and evidence to make the case. Fogel presents the chilling facts without taking a grizzly approach. Another filmmaker might have been tempted to use a re-creation or animation, but he resists going down that road.
Fogel details Khashoggi’s history as a journalist exposing the repressive activity by autocratic leaders in the Middle East. He was always trying to expose the truth about how any opposition was being crushed. He had to separate from his family to work as a journalist for the Washington Post.
Enter Omar Abdulaziz who was a close friends of Khashoggi’s. He is a young man who inspired him to expose the truth about the controlling Saudi government. Omar was put on a hit because of his activity as an opposition figure and the films show how they used powerful spy ware track his communication with Khashoggie, including his plans and whereabouts. They knew he planned to go to the Turkish Consulate to get a marriage license for he and Hatice Cengiz.
Fogel makes clear that what should have been the best day of their lives, turned out to be the worst and an international incident. Hatice has picked up Khashoggi’s mantle of exposing the Saudi Regime and to continue his legacy.
We know whodunnit, but Fogel carefully and strategically puts the pieces together to detail what and why Khashoggi was murdered that day. It’s all presented calmly, almost clinically, until late in the film when the transcript of a recording that the Turkish government made inside the Saudi Consulate in Turkey is revealed. It is chilling.
In process, Fogel explains the heirarchy of the family of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman who gained powerful only subservient to his father, the King, and is key to the murder. It is possible that he was even watching from Riyadh as Khashoggi was murdered.
Fogel did extensive interviews with those who were contacts or involved in the unfolding story. The most emotional is with fiancé, Hatice, watching her wait for her love for hours, not know and know at the same time what was happening. The most heartbreaking scenes are of her showing the apartment Khashoggi had bought for their life together. It included a lazy boy chair he was so excited about spending time relaxing in while in the apartment with his soon-to-be wife.
Then Fogel comes back to Omar who carries the burden that he may have been the unwitting tool that the Saudi government used to track down their target, Khashoggi. He feels guilt for what happened and suffers, not only for his hero, the journalist, but for his family. His brothers have been imprisoned and tortured.
This film shows how easily evil can co-opt technology for the most heinous purposes. We thought this film would be harder to watch because of the outcome. But Fogel lays out the evidence of this international incident in a logical time line that forces your intellect to engage, not just your emotion.
The Dissident 1 hour 59 minutes PG-13
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