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Laramie Movie Scope: The Dissident

It does more than state the obvious

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 12, 2021 – This movie states the obvious, that Washington Post journalist Jamal Kashoggi was murdered by Saudi Arabian government agents, but then it goes beyond that to put it into context and show some consequences.

Kashoggi was assassinated on October 2, 2018 under orders from Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, according to the film. Kashoggi was an influential journalist who actively opposed the corruption of the Saudi government, and that made him an enemy of the state.

There is ample evidence of this because the murder happened in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, and the Turkish government had the consulate bugged. The whole assassination was captured on audio recordings, and video cameras captured all the comings and goings at the consulate.

Turkish authorities issued arrest warrants for many of those responsible for the murder, and some of them were even prosecuted in Saudi Arabia, but those at the top evaded responsibility. In the end, little was done about it. The Saudi government had sent a clear message to all dissidents: You oppose the royal family at your own peril.

This documentary film is told largely from the perspective a journalist who is inspired by Kashoggi's example, a Saudi activist and online video host Omar Abdulaziz, living in exile. The friendship between Kashoggi and Abdulaziz, as well as the romance between Kashoggi and his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz are central to the documentary.

Kashoggi's career, and evolution, from a Saudi government insider to an anti-government dissident, are detailed in the film. Kashoggi went from a comfortable life in Saudi Arabia as a government insider, to the life of a man in exile, cut off from his family.

Abdulaziz faces similar problems. When he became a dissident in exile, the Saudi government rounded up his family and friends, tortured them and imprisoned them. The only way they will be released is if Abdulaziz returns to Saudi Arabia, but if he does return, he will probably suffer the same fate as Kashoggi.

So how do world leaders react to a government that assassinates journalists? There was minimal push back from President Donald Trump, who repeatedly disputed CIA findings about Kashoggi's murder, and also vetoed a bill that would have stopped arm sales to Saudi Arabia.

There was more push back from billionaire Jeff Bezos who refused Saudi requests to soft pedal news coverage about Kashoggi's murder in his newspaper, The Washington Post. Bezos also backed out of important business dealings with Saudi Arabia (as did other businessmen) because of Kashoggi's murder. Bezos was targeted by Saudi government hackers, who used information stolen from his phone against him through The National Enquirer, a Trump-friendly publication.

The sophisticated cyber attack against Bezos is just part of a massive Saudi campaign to attack and manipulate communications, including social media. According to the film, the Saudi government employs large numbers of people to manipulate social media in order to squash online dissent.

The danger posed by corrupt Saudi leaders, and Saudi enablers like President Trump are one of the main subjects of this documentary. The murder of Jamal Kashoggi is a tragedy, but it is also a symptom of far more serious problems, such as systematic attacks on news organizations, and the use of social media to create divisive false realities. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2021 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]