From The Dissident (2020), dir. Bryan Fogel (image courtesy Cinetic Media)

The Dissident is the second of two documentaries to come out this year about journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The first was Kingdom of Silence, which used Khashoggi as a way to look at the recent history of Saudi Arabia and its relationship to the US. In contrast, The Dissident is more about Khashoggi himself, and goes into greater detail about both his life and his death.

The two films’ different focuses are a function of their differing levels of access. With The Dissident, director Bryan Fogel and his crew have much more connections to friends, family, and colleagues of Khashoggi than Kingdom of Silence, which instead favored high-level political talking heads. Rather than a macro view of US-Saudi relations, this is a more intimate story of one man in conflict with his government. The difference in sensibilities is evident even in the titles; in Kingdom of Silence, one interviewees insist that Khashoggi wasn’t a dissident because at heart he loved his country. The Dissident is smarter about how being critical of one’s homeland works, and the potentially horrific consequences of speaking out.

YouTube video

The Dissident opens in virtual cinemas December 25 and on VOD January 8.

Dan Schindel is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Brooklyn, and a former associate editor at Hyperallergic. His portfolio and links are here.