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01st Mar 2021

The Dissident: the documentary banned in Saudi Arabia and refused by Netflix

Academy award-winning director, Bryan Fogel, has seen his latest documentary banned in Saudi Arabia and turned down by Netflix

Nadine Batchelor-Hunt

Academy award-winning director Bryan Fogel has seen his latest documentary, The Dissident, banned in Saudi Arabia and turned down by Netflix.

Bryan Fogel is the director of  Icarus – a 2017 Oscar-winning documentary on doping in Russian sport, and one which was reportedly viewed more than 700 million times on Netflix.

But this time Netflix refused his latest documentary, The Dissident. Why?

Its subject matter, which explores the circumstances surrounding the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi was a Saudi dissident, and was assassinated in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

A month later, the CIA concluded Khashoggi’s assassination was ordered by Mohammed bin Salman – deputy prime minister and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia have vehemently rejected this assessment, and have described the assassination as “an abhorrent crime and a flagrant violation of the Kingdom’s laws and values.”

That same Kingdom strictly censors media and internet use more broadly, journalists must be approved by the government. They were never going to screen a documentary alleging their involvement in state-sponsored murder. But why wouldn’t Netflix distribute the film?

“I think what we see in the film is exactly the reason why: Saudi Arabia has incredibly strong cyber-hacking capabilities – which I think big global companies would be concerned about,” said Fogel.

“They are spectacularly wealthy.”

Fogel also spoke about Saudi-backed trolls online targeting him following the production of The Dissident.

“They’ve made attempts at the film on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes – which we made them aware of, they have removed some of those false reviews.”

He added: “I think it’s the same thing you see in the film, and clearly they’ve been effective in making it more difficult for people to come and see the film.”

The Dissident will premiere in the UK at the Glasgow Film Festival on March 6, with its Irish premiere at the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival on March 13.

You can find JOE’s full interview with director Bryan Fogel below.