Monday, January 4, 2021

The Dissident - Documentary Review

The Documentary: The Dissident

The Director: Bryan Fogel

The Story: When Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappears in Istanbul, his fiancée and dissidents around the world piece together the clues to a murder and expose a global cover up.

The Review:
This is one of those documentaries where, the more you watch, the more mad you get because you see the abuses of power, the corruption, and the blatant power grabs all at the expense of freedom and the lives of human beings. There are people in the world who have come into power, or they've been handed power, and they will literally do anything. Anything to keep it and also gain more. Even if that means taking someone who doesn't agree with you and silencing them and, if they present any type of threat then they should be killed immediately. That's where we're at in the world.

Director Brian Fogel has previously given us Icarus which is a similar sort of thriller styled documentary and just as potent in what it reveals. I think the difference with The Dissident is that you actually feel the danger and that just by watching it, you might somehow be implicated in the schemes and machinations as they slowly unfold over the course of the story. That's when you know you're watching quality storytelling is when you get so absorbed you a tangible connection.

The one thing I found to be a drawback and this might not hit the same for everybody, but I felt like I've been down this road before of playing for shock value as layers of intrigue and evil are slowly exposed and, every step of the way, our jaws should be dropped and our brains turned into a puddle from all the craziness. Yes, we know there are evil people in the world and they do really bad things. I think, after the last several years we all get that so do we really need to have it shown to us in the same way? For the most part, I will actually say yes, I just think that maybe a new way of telling these stories should be what is focused on next.

Ultimately what this movie reveals is just how important freedom of speech is and how much power it holds. I mean, Jamal Khashoggi was flat out murdered because he took a stand as a human being for freedom, for human rights, and he put people on blast for not allowing those basic things to exist. What's scary is how technology is being used, abused, and exploited in ways that we're not aware of nor are we ready for and it's all just happening. Our freedoms are being taken away right now, right in front of us. The devices that are in our pockets and on our desks are being used as weapons to take away our freedoms. What are we going to do about it? Are we willing to die to protect our freedoms? Are we ven aware that it's happening?

The Verdict:
The Dissident is a strong entry into the year's crowded field of quality documentaries. What carries the film is the powerful and shocking story of corruption and oppression although having seen so many similar stories, I felt like it was a bit redundant. Now that I think about it, that probably says more about humanity than it does the film.

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