More

    Death in Istanbul

    CONTROL: In October 2018, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never came out, leaving his fiancée and an international community of dissidents to piece together clues to his murder.

    Jamal Khashoggi had reason to fear and loathe the Saudi Arabian authorities. The Washington Post journalist and dissident had once been close to the Middle Eastern Kingdom’s ruling family but had since turned fierce critic of his native country.

    But love is a very powerful force, and when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 to obtain a divorce certificate that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz, he could have expected little more than a bureaucratic procedure, having already been to sign the required documents a few days prior.

    What happened shortly after he bid farewell to his anxious fiancée was medieval in its brutality: seized by members of a Saudi security force deliberately flown in to murder Khashoggi, Khashoggi was swiftly killed, his body butchered using a surgical bone saw brought in especially for the operation. It would be weeks before his putrefying remains, and decapitated head, would be found hidden in the garden of the Saudi consul’s residence, a few minutes’ walk from the consulate.

    Gaining trust

    Bryan Fogel’s forensic documentary, The Dissident, features never-before-seen surveillance footage, and what the producers say is «unprecedented access to other damning information previously unavailable to the public.»

    Fogel gained the trust of several figures in the investigation, including the fiancée, Cengiz, Agnès Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur who lead the enquiry into the assassination, and Omar Abdulaziz, a young Saudi activist with whom Khashoggi was secretly collaborating.

    There are also interviews with top Turkish and US government officials, as well as appearances by US House of Representatives Speaker, Nancy Pelosi and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos⁠—someone else who has fallen out with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

    The result is a chillingly accomplished telling of a story that negotiates a web of «money, power, tyranny, love, and technology run amok.»

    The Dissident-documentary-MTR1
    The Dissident, a film by Bryan Fogel

    International headlines

    The Dissident plays like a fast-paced thriller, opening with CCTV footage of Khashoggi entering the embassy before seamlessly shifting to an interview with Turkey’s lead prosecutor and extracts from transcripts of the chilling audio recordings obtained by the Turkish authorities within days.

    «Has the sacrificial victim arrived?» one man asks.

    «Yes»

    «Thank God»

    Khashoggi is heard pleading for the men to stop: «You’re strangling me, I am going to die here. I have asthma…» before only wheezing and grunting is heard.

    In a story where we know what happened – the murder made headlines around the world, seriously threatening diplomatic relations not only between Turkey and Saudi Arabia but between the US and the Kingdom as well – everything plays on what we don’t know about Khashoggi and his relationship with the Saudi monarchy.

    a chillingly accomplished telling of a story that negotiates a web of «money, power, tyranny, love and technology run amok.»

    Once an insider

    Once an insider, close to the crown princes, Khashoggi was educated at an American university and spoke fluent English. Steeped in the history and culture of his country, he understood the nuances and limitations of operating within a rigid, traditional society, although he always insisted that the monarchy’s rule was not absolute, but subject to a degree of consent from the oil-rich nation’s.

    In archive footage, we meet the younger Kashoggi – and are lead to a favourable view of a man who, until 2017, was close to power as an advisory to the crown princes – as Saudi dissidents scattered around the world in exile from Oslo to Montreal, recount their stories of friendship with a man said to have had «an innocent smile».

    Other influential friends – from a former Egyptian presidential contender to the ex-head of Al Jazeera’s news operation – also add to the picture of a man who spent 30 years as a loyal member of upper-class Saudi society, before becoming disabused of the regime’s Potemkin attempts at reform.

    The Dissident-documentary-MTR2
    The Dissident, a film by Bryan Fogel

    Marked for death

    As disturbing as Khashoggi’s murder was – and the evident grief his fiancée, extensively interviewed, still feels – it is its revelation that he was marked for death after one of his dissident contacts’ was hacked by Saudi Arabia using sophisticated Israeli Pegasus 2 spyware. Omar Abdulaziz has the distinction of sharing with Jeff Bezos, a Saudi phone hack. Abdulaziz is convinced the information on his phone linking Khashoggi to the funding of an opposition Twitter operation to combat a major Saudi troll farm, is what triggered the kill order.

    A thorough and forensic film that draws upon top-level sources in Turkey and the USA, The Dissident leaves one with many emotions and thoughts. One outside the box takeaway is that only by weaning ourselves off the drug that is oil can we ever truly hope to be free of the evil influence of super-wealthy fossil fuel dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia.

    Thank you for reading. Articles are free to read, but could you please consider a subscription? For 9 euro, you will support us, get access to all our online and future printed magazines – and get your own profile page (director, producer, festival …) to connected articles. Also remember you can follow us on Facebook or with our newsletter.

    Nick Holdsworthhttp://nickholdsworth.net/
    Our regular critic. Journalist, writer, author. Works mostly from Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.

    FIFDH Geneva announces full programme for 19th festival edition

    The International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) has announced the full program for their 19th edition,...

    East Doc Platform announces full 2021 programme

    Made for Central and East European documentaries, The Institute of Documentary Film's East Doc Platform is the region's largest...

    Visions du Réel Ateliers celebrates Tatiana Huezo Sánchez and Pietro Marcello

    The 52nd edition of Visions du Réel will celebrate Mexican-Salvadoran director Tatiana Huezo Sánchez (Tempestad) and Italian director #Pietro...

    Death in Istanbul

    CONTROL: In October 2018, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never came out, leaving his fiancée and an international community of dissidents to piece together clues to his murder.

    The trauma mapped on a nation-state’s skin

    TRAUMA: An unorthodox documentary on the exceptional journey of one of Serbia's first female partisans, who helped lead the resistance in Auschwitz.

    Ruled by the blindspots

    PERCEPTION: When an image speaks, who does it speak for?

    Paradise lost

    ENVIRONMENT: A single man wields enough power to uproot the living artifacts of his country’s collective history and memory.

    Russia’s war with its own people

    RUSSIA: Two films look into the appeal and threat of Western favorite Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

    Toxic travels

    CAPITALISM: How safe is the air we breathe on commercial airline flights?
    - Advertisement -

    You might also likeRELATED
    Recommended to you

    X