Earlier in 2020, a Showtime documentary called "Kingdom of Silence" detailed the brutal murder of The Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, as he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and was never heard from again. That documentary was one of the best of the year, with this being my only critique:
"While "Kingdom of Silence" does a great job in setting the stage for his disappearance, it would have been even more effective had it put into context exactly why his murder has meaning, and the political fall-out of the American-Saudi relationship being tested as it never quite has before." (Read Full "Kingdom of Silence" Review).
Well, my request has been answered in the form of a new documentary film called, "The Dissident." These two films were made independent of one another, but together they paint a brutal, shocking and unbelievable picture of not just what happened to Khashoggi, but why each and every American should care.
"The Dissident" by the way, is the superior film of the two, only because of how it's made and how much more ground is covered. Where "Kingdom of Silence" focused much more on Jamal Khashoggi's personal life and his career as a journalist, "The Dissident" broadens the scope, and beyond any reasonable doubt proves that Khashoggi was in fact murdered by state agents acting on behalf of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
But it goes further. "The Dissident" gives us some fresh perspectives not only from Jamal's widowed would-be wife, Hatice Cengiz (who waited for hours for Jamal outside of the consulate, where they had planned to be officially married), but also from fellow "dissident" blogger Omar Abdulaziz. Through Abdulaziz, we understand that there are several other voices speaking out against the Saudi dictatorship, and Khashoggi's death was really meant to not only send a message to others that might speak out against the crown, but also to test Saudi Arabia's foreign relationships around the world. Trump, for example, has not even as much as reprimanded the Saudis for their role in Khashoggi's murder, despite video and audio evidence proving their involvement.
"The Dissident" uses the Khashoggi murder as a launching point for other wrongs being committed by the Saudi government, and in the process, it debunks every excuse the Saudis have given since...in some instances, some alarming information is presented to the audience that makes it hard to believe that nothing is being done. For example, the documentary lays out how the Saudis have one of the best cyber-terrorism force in the world, and have developed software that was able to infiltrate nearly ANY mobile device, turning phones around the world into bugging devices for the Saudi government.
Case in point: The phone of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was proved to be hacked. If bin Salman can hack the richest man in the world, he most surely could have hacked Khashoggi's phone, giving the Prince the proof he needed to carry out the assassination.
If at all possible, I would suggest watching "Kingdom of Silence," and then follow it up with "The Dissident." But even on its own two legs, "The Dissident" will blow you over, and it's the very best documentary film in a year that was full of great ones.
Run Time: 1 hour 59 minutes.
Directed by Bryan Fogel ("Icarus," "Jewtopia").
"The Dissident" is available on VOD on Friday, January 8th, 2020.
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