The award-winning director of a new documentary which details the events surrounding the October 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi state agents, likely upon direct order from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself, says he had trouble getting the film picked up by major distribution companies because of how much Saudi money they receive and over fears of reprisal.
Bryan Fogel told Hill.TV that the 2020 documentary was essentially "shunned by all major global distributors" due to their financial ties with big Saudi backers.
The documentary, entitled The Dissident, appears to be the ongoing subject of significant behind-the-scenes Saudi efforts at getting it de-platformed. This as it's seen as deeply embarrassing to the Saudi monarchy and to MbS personally.
"[This challenge] speaks to the environment of fear among these big companies," Fogel told Hill.TV. "There was such a hostile environment coming from the Trump administration for any company that might not align with those administration’s policies."
Trump had long been criticized for his overly "warm" relations with MbS and forgiving approach to the whole saga. MbS had remained isolated from Western allies for about a year, but any coldness towards him was soon dropped and he went back to being hailed as a 'reformer'.
Fogel emphasized, however, that more than this it was ultimately fear of these bigger companies possibly losing out on the hundreds of millions of dollars the Saudis are known to pour into American media and production companies. Gulf countries have also long been known to have hugely influential lobbying campaigns on Capitol Hill.
Watch the interview with the director of The Dissident, Bryan Fogel, below:
A prior report in The Wrap noted further that despite its initial popularity and rave reviews, Hollywood shunned it too:
Before the pandemic hit, Oscar-winning director Bryan Fogel’s latest documentary "The Dissident" about the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was one of the hottest films at Sundance. But months later it couldn’t find a buyer, and the director now accuses Hollywood of "fear" and "cowardice" for not giving the film a platform.
The premiere of "The Dissident" in Sundance was attended by Hillary Clinton and Alec Baldwin, among many others. But TheWrap previously reported back in March that Hollywood had shunned the documentary for fear of backlash from the Saudi Arabian government.
In particular the Saudis have lately ramped up their lobbying efforts given the "unknowns" in terms of Riyadh's relationship with the new Biden administration, while bracing themselves for a tougher relationship with Washington.
Meanwhile, it's expected that the Biden White House will soon approve the public release of a CIA report investigating Khashoggi's murder at the Istanbul consulate. It was previously revealed the CIA report points straight to the top - likely to crown prince MbS himself for giving the order.