“The scope of his life was just epic,” director Rick Rowley says during the film’s panel at Deadline’s Contenders Documentary awards-season event.
“He was more than just a journalistic witness. He lived his life at the center of a whirlwind and was a participant in events that shaped history.”
A political thriller examining the complex relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and how the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi amplified entanglements between the two countries. The film, executive produced by award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney (ENEMIES: THE PRESIDENT, JUSTICE & THE FBI, Citizen K) and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lawrence Wright (The Looming Tower), shines new light on Khashoggi’s remarkable journey – from the battlefields of Afghanistan to the halls of power in Riyadh and Washington, from the Arab Spring to the rise of Saudi Arabia's new Crown Prince.
Khashoggi cut his teeth reporting on Osama bin Laden. Later, he became a quasi-government spokesman, defending Saudi Arabia abroad. But the kingdom’s role squashing the Arab Spring, and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to crush dissent, disillusioned him.
Bin Salman allegedly ordered Khashoggi’s murder, but the precise motives for the killing remain a matter of speculation.
“The potential for [Jamal] to unite the Arab diaspora, the folks in exile, around the cause of freedom I think posed the biggest threat to Gulf monarchies and authoritarian regimes in the region,” says his friend, human rights activist Mohamed Soltan, who appears in the film. “I think that’s one of the main reasons he was killed.”
Both Soltan and Rowley insist the U.S. bears some responsibility for Khashoggi’s death, as “Saudi Arabia’s security guarantor.”
“There is no Saudi government thriving or surviving without unbelievable U.S. support,” Soltan remarked. “We created this monster.”