Distributors 'wouldn't touch' Khashoggi documentary, director says

Director says distributors 'wouldn't touch' Khashoggi documentary
3 min read
23 December, 2020
Bryan Fogel says media companies 'look the other way' when it comes to Saudi rights abuses.
The director slammed media companies for taking money from Saudi Arabia [Getty]
Award-winning director Bryan Fogel has said film distributors "wouldn't touch" his upcoming documentary about slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Major companies are willing to "look the other way" when it comes to human rights abuses due to the power of the Saudi riyal, Fogel told The Hollywood Reporter.

"The Dissident" received glowing reviews when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January this year.

But the film by an Oscar award-winning director was met with silence from distributors, Fogel said.

"Without going into behind-the-scenes details that I'm aware of, there was a unified front among the major global media companies, distributors, that they were not going to touch this film," he said in an interview published on Wednesday.

Fogel was able to make the documentary with funding from the Human Rights Foundation, a New York-based organisation that put together the annual Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF).

Khashoggi attended the OFF in Norway just months before his killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Filmmakers like Fogel often premier their films at festivals like Sundance in order to procure a distributor.

While the January premier was attended by executives from Hulu and Amazon and figures such as Hillary Clinton, he received no offers.


"It was disappointing, but I think it speaks... to the global landscape of these companies that films such as this — that might really need to be seen and viewers would watch — are being silenced through not being distributed through these channels because they might infringe on subscriber growth or it might put the company at risk of a hack or it might infringe on financing," Fogel told The Hollywood Reporter.

"In the case of Saudi Arabia you have so much liquidity and so much money already invested into Hollywood, that clearly factored very large[ly] into the decision. And without going into behind-the-scenes details that I'm aware of, there was a unified front among the major global media companies, distributors, that they were not going to touch this film," he explained.

The director slammed major media companies including Netflix for making deals with Saudi companies or taking Saudi investment.

US distribution rights for "The Dissident" were acquired in September by Briarcliff Entertainment, which Fogel says has a "track record of taking on tough films" such as "Spotlight" and "Farenheit 9/11".

The documentary has since acquired international distributors in the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany as well.

In a seperate interview with CBSNews, Fogel described his certainty that Khashoggi was murdered in a planned operation.

"You don't send 15 men, including the head of a forensics guy who performs autopsies with a kit and a bone saw to Istanbul if you're not planning to murder him. They injected him with sedatives and apparently, they were literally embalming him while he was alive so that the blood would coagulate and circulate through his body in his dying moments with a coagulant and what you use when you embalm somebody," Fogel said.

"You don't you don't send a team like that to carry out a rendition," he added.


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