The Dissident – Review

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When the Public Investment Fund, chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, bought a majority stake in Newcastle United, many human rights activists protested. If you want to know one of the biggest reasons, watch this documentary by Bryan Fogel (his previous work, Icarus, won an Oscar in 2018 in the Best Documentary Feature category).

Long ago, poets wrote praises to the king through poetry, which continued to be read until they reached the ears of the people. The fame of the king also spread. Now it is not much different, but the role of the poet is replaced by journalists. Poetry turned to the media, which in the hands of the power holders became a propaganda tool.

As a journalist, Jamal Khashoggi opposed the practice. After years of being a “part” of the regime (although always critical), Khashoggi was banned by the government, because he was deemed to have gone too far. He also moved to the United States. Khashoggi remained vocal, regularly criticizing through The Washington Post’s columns, but never lost his love for his country. One of her goals is to “go home”. Best Movie Site

On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi visited the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, to process his marriage documents to Hatice Cengiz. But no one saw him come out. CCTV shows something similar. The public, as well as the media, believe that Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate, and The Dissident is investigating the case.

Fogel’s narrative tends to be conventional, through an interview-based reporting format. The Dissident may seem normal in front of a series of documentaries who have recently become more observant of playing with genre boundaries, but that doesn’t mean its appeal has disappeared. This format is also in line with the subject and resource persons, which consist of journalists, both from major and independent media.

Like any weighty reportage, this film is complete, informative and eye-opening. The Dissident doesn’t just focus on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. As if trying to continue the spirit of the journalist, sharp criticism of the Saudi Arabian government, especially Prince Salman, did not go unnoticed. Of course you are familiar with the variety of news about how Saudi Arabia is now increasingly following the times. The issue of women’s empowerment was noticed, while popular culture, whether music or film, began to stir. Salman led the modernization, showing a progressive image, but in hindsight, in fact control over the media is getting tighter, as is the persecution of those who dare to speak.

Enter Omar Abdulaziz into the scope of the story. He is an activist based in Canada, who regularly uploads satirical videos to slander the Saudi government through his YouTube channel, as well as a friend of Jamal Khashoggi. Similar to Khashoggi, from the young activist, we also learn about media propaganda that has targeted Twitter. How the two camps (the government’s “team of flies” versus the activists’ “team of bees”) engage in a social media war, involving thousands of fake accounts and hashtag battles, is one of the film’s most interesting points. Top Movie

Despite conducting extensive exploration, Fogel did not forget to look “inside”, examining the figure of Jamal Khashoggi himself. The Dissident is also a story about enlightenment. One time, Khashoggi once expressed his surprise, regarding the change in Osama bin Laden (the two had been quite close during the 80’s to 90’s), from a figure who used to be (according to him) brave to become a radical terrorist. Here, we see Khashoggi progressing in the opposite direction, from the body parts of the Saudi power holders, to being a relentless fighter against them.

Although it tends to be subtle, The Dissident is also a love story. Omar Abdulaziz recounted that Khashoggi had warned him to choose a public room when several Saudi representatives asked him to meet. But Khashoggi himself went to the consulate. All in the name of love. Khashoggi took risks for the sake of his love. For the sake of Hatice Cengiz who lifted her from loneliness.

On various occasions, the plot does feel crowded. Not that Fogel is too greedy, because again, this is an attempt to share the news thoroughly. However, the director has not been able to arrange a pile of problems neatly.

Even so, the shortcomings above do not reduce the fact that The Dissident is very important to note. What is conveyed is very eye-opening, surprising, and often terrifying. Especially when the name Jeff Bezos is involved. If the figure of the richest man in the world can only be “played”, what will happen to the common people? It is true, the qibla of Muslims is in Saudi Arabia, but that does not mean that we must also orientate to that country in all respects. Movie Review

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