THE DISSIDENT – A Review by Cynthia Flores
It’s December. At the end of the year, many of the best films come out for us to see, especially documentaries. This year there have been many great documentaries. Taking its place towards the top of the list will be The Dissident. It comes to us from filmmaker Bryan Fogel. The Dissident is an edge of your seat thriller of a documentary. With sweeping visuals, the film lays out, in plain English, proof of the investigation into the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd, 2018.
Khashoggi was an upstanding reformer who sought to create a more open society in his homeland. For almost thirty years, while living in Saudi Arabia, he was a high-ranking journalist close to the ruling party. Khashoggi was an insider who worked within their system of controlling the media to get the truth out to its people and the world. He did this until he couldn’t take it anymore. In his attempts to reform Saudi Arabia from within and create a more open society in his homeland, Khashoggi fell out of favor with its ruling party. He had to leave his family and the life he had built and move to America for his safety. His wife divorced him, and he joined the Washington Post newspaper staff. With his newfound freedom, Khashoggi wrote powerful news stories of what was going on in Saudi Arabia. Ultimately, he was murdered for his vocal opposition to the Saudi government.
This documentary features never-before-seen surveillance footage and unprecedented access to a wealth of other damning information previously unavailable to the public. The director Fogel earned the trust of those closest to the murder, such as Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz and a young Saudi activist that Khashoggi was secretly collaborating with, Omar Abdulaziz. The filmmaker also had full access to the UN Special Rapporteur who led the inquiry into the assassination, Agnès Callamard, the Turkish police, prosecutors, and cybersecurity experts who worked hard to bring the truth of what was done to Khashoggi and why.
The film also spotlights the Saudi government’s use of Cyber Warfare to silence anyone that speaks out against them -going into detail about a program they bought from the Israelis called Pegasus. This program uses a normal-looking text message to infect a user’s phone and, by doing so, can get access to everything that’s on that phone. The hack can turn your phone into a piece of spyware using the camera and microphone on the handheld device. It’s chilling to see that this kind of technology is being used, not only on their own people within their country but also on American citizens here in the states.
The Dissident puts a bright spotlight on powerful people such as the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. They think that they can get away with murder and that the rest of the world will look the other way. After all, if they could kill a world-renowned journalist such as Jamal Khashoggi in a consulate where you’re supposed to be safe. Then they think they can kill anyone. With this murder, they sent out the message that they can get to anyone, or so they think.
This documentary uses intimate interviews and stunning visuals to tell a story of courage, money, power, tyranny, love, and technology run amok. I hope that the world will not forget this atrocity and that whoever gave the order to kill this old man lives to regret such an arrogant and cruel action.
I give The Dissident a 4.5-star rating. This is scary stuff that needs to be seen and understood.
Directed by: Bryan Fogel
Written by: Bryan Fogel, Mark Monroe
Selig Rating: 4.5 Stars
Running Time: 1hr 59min
Wide Release: In theaters December 25th and PVOD on January 8th
Starring: Jamal Khashoggi, Omar Abdulaziz, Fahrettin Altun, John O. Brennan
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.