Briarcliff Entertainment has acquired “The Dissident” and will release it theatrically and via on-demand in late 2020 to coincide with the second anniversary of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death.

In this December 15, 2014 file photo, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks during a press conference in Manama, Bahrain.
In this December 15, 2014 file photo, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks during a press conference in Manama, Bahrain. (AP)

Bryan Fogel's Jamal Khashoggi documentary “The Dissident" made one of the biggest splashes at the Sundance Film Festival. Reviews were terrific. Hillary Clinton attended the premiere, as did Khashoggi's fiancee, 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 materialised. 

Briarcliff Entertainment said on 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.”

Royally hacked

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 bin Salman, who initially denied Saudi Arabia was behind Khashoggi’s killing, eventually accepted 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.

READ MORE: Bezos phone hack shows 'possible involvement' of Saudi prince

Interests first

The film also scrutinises 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 said 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.

Turkey seeks justice

Turkey began trying 20 Saudi nationals in absentia in July over the 2018 killing of Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul.

A 117-page indictment prepared by Istanbul prosecutors accusing the Saudi nationals of involvement in the gruesome premeditated murder was accepted in April by Istanbul’s Heavy Penal Court No 11.

It accuses Ahmed Bin Mohammed al Asiri and Saud al Qahtani of incitement to deliberate killing through torture and seeks separate aggravated life sentences for both.

READ MORE: Journalist Khashoggi's fiancee hopes for justice in Turkey trial

Source: TRTWorld and agencies