A secret government installation where liberal intellectuals are reprogrammed to parrot the more conservative ideological strains of today’s Middle East lends Saudi “Shadow of Silence” the promise of political daring. In execution, the message proves muddled and presentation too tepid for desired paranoid-thriller effect. Still, curio value will draw some interest from distribs in select Arab nations and expat communities, as well as the odd fest.
Promised wider promotion for his novel, middle-aged globalization foe Badi Mourad (Abdel Mohsen) agrees to several weeks’ rest at a mysterious “institute.” After arriving, however, it’s soon clear that leaving — or criticizing the heavily guarded site’s “program” — is no longer an option. Badi, other de facto political-prisoners and their doctors (duped into running an alleged harmless scientific experiment) try to resist methodical brainwashing. Meanwhile, Badi’s frantic wife and a working-class man whose father is also missing scour the desert for this secret compound. Unconvincing climax has them orchestrating a breakout with help from armed Bedouin tribesmen. Premise loses intrigue as the story plods on, lacking atmospherics, tension and a cogent point. Purportedly 35mm-shot pic was screened at Montreal in projected DVD.