"The Dissident" is a documentary about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. As the movie opens, it is "Montreal, Quebec, January 20, 2019, three months after the murder of Khashoggi", where we get to know Omar, a Saudi national and activist who now lives in exile, as he tells about the dangers he is facing. Omar had befriended Khashoggi, who had warned him "This kind of work might get you killed." We then go to "Istanbul, Turkey, October 2, 2018", as Khashoggi comes to the Saudi Consulate to pick up his papers so that he can marry his fiancée (who is waiting outside). At this point we are less than 10 min. into the documentary.
Couple of comments: this is the newest documentary from writer/director Bryan Fogel, whose previous film "Icarus" won the 2018 Best Documentary Oscar. Here he takes a new look at what really happened inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, and he unearths a number of shocking new evidence including the transcript of an audio tape of the murder . Along the way he provides ample screen time to Omar, the dissident in Montreal, and also to Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi's fiancée. The latter puts a human face on the entire ordeal. Last but not least, the Turkish Prosecutor and police also pipe in. It all makes for a disturbing and at time shocking and uncomfortable viewing experience, with only one logical conclusion: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) will stop at nothing in his quest for power and correlating need to crush any and all dissent, not even a cold blooded murder of another Saudi citizen, in a Saudi Consulate no less. Along the way Fogel explains how the Saudi hacking technology works, and what to connection is with Jeff Bazos. You may recall that a few months ago there was a similar documentary on Showtime called "Kingdom of Silence", itself quite good as well. But in the end "The Dissenter" wins it by a nose or two, on the account of the deeper research that went into the making of this. But by all means check out both these films.
"The Dissident" premiered with immediate acclaim at this year's Sundance Film Festival back in January, yea in what feels is now a different (pre-COVID-19) decade altogether, Given Fogel's stellar track record, you'd think that distributors would be in a bidding war for this film, but the opposite happened: all major platforms and outlets (Netflix, which had distributed "Icarus", Amazon, Neon, Fox Searchlight, etc.) couldn't run away fast enough from this film, in an obvious sign that they didn't want the wrath of the Saudi Government for releasing this film. Just pitiful and sad. In the end, Fogel all but self-released this via a tiny indie outlet. The movie opened around Christmas in select theaters for a short run before pivoting in the near future to streaming services. The early evening theatrical screening where I saw this at the day after Christmas was attended poorly (exactly 3 people, including myself). Never mind. If you want to understand what all the Saudi Government will do to crush dissent of any kind, with the apparent blessing of Loser Trump who found nothing wrong with any of this, I'd readily suggest you check this out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.