You may have seen Jamal Khashoggi’s name mentioned in the news. But if you only have a vague understanding of what transpired that fateful day – when the Washington Post journalist went into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, leaving his fiance to wait outside, only for him never to return – The Dissident is a much-watch.
There are more than a few moments in Academy Award-winning Bryan Fogel’s documentary that are so much stranger than fiction as to seem implausible. The scenes on screen are more the stuff of an international crime thriller than a fact-based feature. An excerpt from an audio transcript of Khashoggi being suffocated inside the consulate and his body being dismembered with a bone saw offers one such grisly moment. Shots of the tandoori oven in which his remains were burned present another. And the discovery that the phone of Jeff Bezos – the richest tech entrepreneur in the world – had been hacked via a text from the Saudi prince, you’d sooner believe to be a conspiracy theory than a fact.
But perhaps even more perverse is the reaction of the Saudi government and the international community in the face of such incontrovertible evidence of the journalist’s murder at the hands of the Saudi Arabian state. As is made clear when a US senator questions America’s decision to continue providing the nation with ammunition – “You can cut a dissident into pieces with a bone saw and we’ll still give you weapons?” – Fogel’s documentary charts in devastating detail not only the heinous nature of the crime but how wealth and power allow the country to act brazenly with impunity.
However, the real emotional punch comes in the form of interviews and footage of Khashoggi’s fiancé, who, since the day she was left waiting for him at the gate, has reached no justice nor peace.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Fogel about why he decided to tackle the story of Khashoggi’s murder in the wake of the success of his Oscar-winning Icarus, which explores the Russian doping scandal. The director also discussed the journey he went on himself in order to research and discover the horrifying details of the murder, and whether President Biden’s recent declassification of an intelligence report on the murder presents a turning point in attempts to hold the perpetrators to account.
By Sarah Bradbury. First published on The Upcoming on 12th March 2021.
The Dissident had its UK Premiere online at the Glasgow Film Festival on 6th March 2021 and is released on Amazon Prime Video on 1st April 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Dissident here: