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The Dissident (2020)

The Dissident (2020)

This is the story of Jamal, a journalist who started out thick amidst the power hierarchy of Saudi Arabia, but grew critical of the regime. Eventually he fled the country, eventually he started getting a bit too opinionated for their liking... and was killed, chopped into pieces, and burned, and buried in a well. By the Saudi consulate.

By direct order of (crown prince) Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud most probably.

The documentary grows long-winding occasionally, with scenes of Jamal's former wife walking through their apartment, or another dissident walking through the street - looking at his cellphone. But when it gets into the real documentation business it enriches. It gets captivating. It gets controversial.

It makes me think a bit more highly of Jeff Bezos and a bit less of Trump, and I realize how easy it is for public opinion to be swayed by propaganda as it does. You don't even realize it until your own view drastically shifts. If you have no reason to doubt or scrutinize the things you're told.

I've lived in Saudi a few years myself.

I liked the country, I liked the climate and the friends I had there, but I most definitely did not have any involvement with the regime itself.

If you came across a car crash or similar you were warned to not help, as you were unclean. You lived in enclosed areas with other foreign workers, and though these areas had all amenities you could require - gym, pool, tennis courts - even a small local supermarket with imported goods, there was clearly a wall between you and the native population, and my experiences there not at all encompassing of society as a whole.

I wonder if I would've been out in the wild more there if I was older. Though then September 11 happened, and suddenly the tone towards foreigners grew darker.

This movie gave me a very different perspective on the place I lived though, and of how powerful they really are. They have oil, so everybody wants to play nice with them, of course, but their natural reserves aren't their only means of power.

I get the impression they're a regime you'd best not underestimate, and it seems MBS wants to give you that impression too.

 rated 4/5: fo shizzle


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