Unlawful Actions

Unlawful Actions

The Dissident is a film that was completed in early 2020, receiving its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Yet Bryan Fogel’s documentary has only increased in relevance in the following months. The film scrupulously deals with the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a story that has remained in the headlines ever since. Only last week, US intelligence published a report claiming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing and dismemberment of Khashoggi.

Fogel takes us back to October 2nd, 2018, when Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who left his country for the U.S., went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. There to collect some paperwork relating to his upcoming marriage to PhD student Hatice Cengiz, he was suffocated and killed by intelligence operatives. His remains were never found. At first the Saudi government denied all knowledge of his whereabouts; they later changed their story and claimed he died accidentally in a struggle to forcibly extradite him.

Structuring the documentary like a thriller – Kevin Macdonald’s One Day in September springs to mind – Fogel takes nothing at face value. He gains unprecedented access to Cengiz and Omar Abdulaziz, the young Saudi Arabian activist, who worked with Khashoggi and now lives in exile in Montreal, while his two younger brothers and many friends remain in prison in Saudi Arabia. He speaks to Turkish authorities, who had secret footage and transcripts of Khashoggi’s killing. And that’s just scratching the surface of a story that goes to the highest levels of government and big business.

After delivering his Oscar-winning documentary Icarus, which examined Russian state-sponsored doping in sports, Fogel has again proved himself worthy of being included in the elite level of investigative directors, alongside the likes of Alex Gibney and Errol Morris. At the conclusion, the film encourages audiences to get involved and urge politicians and lawmakers in their country to hold the Saudi regime accountable for this shocking crime and petition for the release of prisoners of conscience still languishing in jail. It’s a fine rallying cry to finish what might be the most important film of the past twelve months.


The Dissident premieres at the Glasgow Film Festival on March 6 and is then available on demand. For more details, click here.

James Mottram