NEW YORK (AP) — Bryan Fogel's Jamal Khashoggi documentary “The Dissident" made one of the biggest splashes at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Reviews were terrific. Hillary Clinton attended the premiere, as did Khashoggi's fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.
But perhaps because of global media companies who feared the wrath of the authoritative Saudi Arabian regime that the film alleges was behind Khashoggi's murder, no distribution deal followed. Nearly eight months later, one has finally materialized. Briarcliff Entertainment said Wednesday that it has acquired “The Dissident” and will release it theatrically and via on-demand in late 2020 to coincide with the second anniversary of Khashoggi’s death.
“My hope is that this film will enshrine his memory as well as ensure that justice is served, and that our society no longer turns a blind eye to the brutal human rights violations committed by the Saudi regime,” Fogel said in a statement. “I am thrilled that the film will receive a truly independent release, detached from corporate and special interests.”
Khashoggi, a former Washington Post columnist, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing, the CIA has said. Mohammed, who initially denied Saudi Arabia was behind Khashoggi’s killing, eventually granted it was carried out by the Saudi government, but claimed it was not by his orders.
“The Dissident” features the headline-making conclusion of United Nations human rights investigators that the phone of Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos (whose company owns the Washington Post) was hacked into by a malicious file sent from the personal WhatsApp account of the crown prince.
The films also scrutinizes governments and corporations that continue to work closely with Saudi Arabia despite a crackdown on free speech. The film’s end credits include a list of corporations tied to Saudi Arabia.
“In my dream of dreams, distributors will stand up to Saudi Arabia,” Fogel told The Associated Press in an interview following the film's premiere at Sundance.
Fogel's previous film, the Russian doping documentary “Icarus," won the 2018 Academy Award for best documentary.
“Bryan Fogel is a courageous filmmaker who consistently takes great risks against very powerful authoritarians,” said Tom Ortenberg, president of Briarcliff Entertainment. “We have a great sense of responsibility with this project and are honored to provide a platform that will continue Khashoggi’s work and highlight his sacrifices to the largest audience possible.”
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP