Always  On Guard

The Dissident
Commentary by:  Martin Smith, Karen Elliott House, Steven A. Cook, Randa Slim, Norman Roule, Barnard Haykey and Bill Marczak
Director: Brian Fogel
Scriptwriters: Brian Fogel and Mark Monroe
Composer: Adam Peters
Cinematography: Jake Swantko
Orwell Productions/Human Rights Foundation/Briarcliff Entertainment
Rating: not rated but could be PG 13 for themed material
Running Length: 119 Minutes 

This documentary, by Brian Fogel, gives the audience a chance to see what was behind the assassination of top news journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  The world was shocked in October 2018 by the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.  He was last seen entering the Saudi Arabia Consulate and then dropped out of sight.  News broke that Khashoggi had been killed either within the Consulate, or elsewhere.  We see news bulletins about the investigation into what was presumed, and later verified to be, the death of Khashoggi.  Then, the documentary switches gears and tells the background of a person, a Crown Prince, within the higher ranks of the Saudi royal family. 

There are interviews and comments from journalists and literary people such as Karen Elliott House, Steven A. Cook, Sanda Slim, Norman Roule, Bernard Haykey and Bill Marczak.  The evidence begins to point to a prince of the royal family, and his rise to power within the family, which is the Saudi government, and an absolute monarchy. The middle section of this documentary now veers away from Jamal Khashoggi and into Saudi history.  We also learn about the politics of the oil business, which gives the Arabian Peninsula its wealth. It is a game of chess between the family royal family members and governments around the world, in particular, the United States.  The royal family liked President Trump, giving him a large parade when he traveled there and the term “grooming and wooing” is used.  There is also a section on how Pegasus spyware was used in Twitter accounts as surveillance.  Eventually, the audience gets to the alleged perpetrators who are put on trial and have confessed to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi as soon as he entered the Saudi Arabi Consulate on that date. As a journalist, Jamal knew too much. 

“The Dissident” refers to the journalist, but most of the story is about what happened around the journalist.  Perhaps, “Rise to Power” would have been a better title. I found the middle section of this film to be distracting in the sense of being a history lesson. This could have been shortened so the audience could have more information about Khashoggi, himself. Comments are made about his work ethics, but we lack personal information. What we do learn about Jamal Khashoggi is that he was not afraid and that the Arab Spring Uprisings distanced him from the government there. He was a walking target. 

Journalists are on the front line for news.  Always have been, are now, and always will be.  You literally take your life in your hands when giving people news of what is happening around the world. Jamal Khashoggi was a journalist and paid the price. 


Copyright 2021 Marie Asner