Powerful new Khashoggi film hits its mark … but will audiences get to see it?

The Observer
Jamal Khashoggi

Documentary exposé about the murdered journalist is proving tough to sell – not least because distributors may be wary of upsetting the Saudis

Bryan Fogel, director of The Dissident, and Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Photograph: Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP

Vanessa Thorpe
Sat 22 Feb 2020

Bryan Fogel, director of The Dissident, and Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Photograph: Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP

At the close of the US festival premiere of a documentary about the killing of the Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the audience rose to its feet, cheering.

The Dissident’s tragic subject matter had already created interest, as had the glittering record of its director, Bryan Fogel. Critics were full of praise, with Variety calling it “an eye-opening thriller brew of corruption, cover-up and real-world courage”.

Alec Baldwin tweeted his approval, praising the “numbing and beautiful” film. “The truth is being dismembered in Washington,” he wrote. “But it is alive and well in the work of @bryanfogel.”

The documentary’s future looked bright, and after the premiere Fogel said he hoped that Riyadh’s powerful global lobbying machine would not mean it would be ignored. “In my dream of dreams,” he said, “distributors will stand up to Saudi Arabia.”

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