This second of three Jacques Peretti documentaries was purportedly made to discover who the ‘real’ Dodi Al Fayed was. The film began with Jacques saying, “On 6th September 1997, two and a half billion people watched the funeral of Princess Diana. Six weeks later there was another funeral. This time there were no cameras and just a handful of mourners. This funeral was for Dodi Al-Fayed.”
This was the start of the confusion about this film for me because in actuality, following Muslim tradition, Dodi was buried within 24 hours of his death. His body was escorted back to Britain by his father having been wrapped in a shroud of three pieces of white cloth before being placed in a coffin and interred at Brookwood Cemetery in London… surely Jacques would have been aware of that?
However, we then heard how Dodi had come to the public’s attention after a photograph taken by tabloid journalists showed him and Diana kissing, but at that time, little was known about Dodi.
Following his death, two very different ‘sides’ to Dodi emerged. On one was the talented man who’d won an Oscar for one of his first films – he produced the blockbuster Chariots of Fire – and who was loved by his family and friends.
The other portrayed a womaniser and drug user, and Jacques film was to find out which was the true Dodi but I have to say, for the majority of this film, I felt that Jacques was not so much trying to find out who Dodi was, but rather he was trying to find out what effect his father had on his life and what Mohammed Al Fayed himself was like.
Early on in the film, we saw footage shot at Harrods in London where Mohammed Al Fayed had commissioned and put in place an ornate statue as a memorial to Diana and Dodi.
It’s a statue that evokes feelings of love and kinship between the two figures portrayed, but was that an accurate reflection of Dodi and Diana’s relationship or just the unfulfilled fantasies of Mohammed Al Fayed in depicting what he wanted to happen between Diana and Dodi?
As the documentary went on, we were introduced to a woman called Pam – who was Dodi’s PA for several years – as well as several other friends of Dodi’s who all had the same things to say when you got right down to it. They all said that Dodi was a kind, fun man who loved beautiful women, enjoyed the finer things in life and ‘boys toys’ in the form of yachts and cars and that he was hell bent on pleasing his father.
Jacques and the interviewees made this latter point sound like a bad thing; a negative character flaw that was the product of Dodi’s insecurity and of his leading a directionless life as an international playboy. The fact that Dodi wanted his father to be proud of him somehow carried the implication that this meant he was a failure in some way, but nobody ever directly referred to him as such.
Jacques then moved on to taking a look at Dodi’s love life and it was one that was characterised by dating women who were – often – blonde, tall, beautiful and many times, famous. These included Brooke Shields, Koo Stark, Winona Ryder, Darryl Hannah and our very own Susannah, as in Trinny and.
Prior to meeting Diana, Dodi had been in a two year long relationship with a woman called Kelly Fisher who sensationally held a press conference alongside her mother to say that Dodi Al Fayed was her fiancé and that he’d effectively cheated on her with Diana. She claimed that having asked her to marry him, Dodi then went directly from her arms into Diana’s, and she intended to make him sorry for it.
A friend of Dodi’s, Jack Martin, told Jacques that he believed Kelly was devastated not at the loss of her relationship with Dodi but the loss of the money and privilege a life with him would bring. Kelly subsequently made a good deal of money in kiss-and-tell stories about Dodi and his family.
She claimed that the only reason Dodi was with Diana was in order to give Mohammed an ‘in’ with the royal family, which she claimed was all Mohammed had ever wanted. She and others claimed it was the reason Al Fayed had bought Harrods and why he’d cultivated a friendship with Diana.
By now, Jacques – in asking leading questions – and some of Dodi’s friends and associates, such as PA Pam, had painted a picture of Mohammed Al Fayed as being a controlling monster, a man who governed his son’s every move and held over his head the threat of the withdrawal of money should Dodi not comply.
This is indeed a view that one could take, however, personally, I felt that if you chose to look at it a different way, why shouldn’t Mr Al Fayed want a say in how his money was – often recklessly – spent? And if wanting to know what was going on with his son was controlling, then I guess most parents are controlling. You might also see it as his being protective of a much loved son who had a propensity to go slightly off the rails if left unchecked.
I felt that PA Pam had an agenda of her own with Mohammed. I’m not sure what their history is but I’d hazard a guess it’s not one that she came out of well. She was consistently derogatory about him and gave the impression that he was an odd and manipulative man who cared not about Dodi as a son but as a means to achieving what he most wanted – to be accepted by the English aristocracy and especially the royal family.
She talked about how, on New Year’s Day in 1986, Dodi secretly married a girlfriend called Susanne. The wedding ceremony was held in Colorado with just six guests present, none of whom were family. Again, this was made to sound sinister in that it was implied Dodi had deliberately excluded his father in order to stamp an autonomous foot at Mohammed. However, as Susanne’s family weren’t there either, maybe the couple wanted exactly what they had; an intimate and romantic wedding. Perhaps there was no deep conspiracy or familial snub at all.
Pam then said that the marriage broke up some eight months later because, on meeting Dodi’s family, Susanne “felt uncomfortable”. Pam added that Mohammed had flirted with Susanne, and again, it was made to sound deviant. Frankly, I’ve met lots of father-in-laws who’ve flirted with a pretty daughter-in-law but in my circle, it’s usually at a wedding when one too many stouts have been had. Whatever your social circle, it may be a bit of a no-no but it’s not necessarily a big deal either.
Mohammed Al Fayed didn’t get the opportunity to answer all these criticisms though he was in fact invited by Jacques to take part in the film. However, he said he would only do so if certain terms were agreed to. He didn’t want the rumours about Dodi’s supposed drug taking to be discussed in the film and he wanted it noted that Dodi had been a filmmaker… and once again, this was relayed with an overtone that suggested Mohammed’s extreme manipulation.
Wouldn’t any father – before agreeing to take part in a film about his dead son – want it noted that he was an accomplished young man in his own right and, given that Dodi wasn’t able to defend himself, isn’t it reasonable that Mohammed wouldn’t want unfounded allegations of drug abuse bandied about?
Despite the fact the Mr Al Fayed didn’t take part in the film – because Jacques intended to investigate the drug allegations – we were however introduced to another of Dodi’s family members, his cousin Hussain. He and Dodi spent a good deal of time together when they were children and as both were the sons of extremely wealthy fathers, both were afforded luxury and privilege that meant they lived a fantasy lifestyle.
However, I suspect that as with Pam, there’s a history of some bad feeling between Hussain and Mohammed Al Fayed because Hussain spoke of him in terms that barely concealed his contempt for the man.
Many of the people in this film claimed that Mohammed was almost obsessed with becoming a friend of and to the royal family, and some similarly claimed that he engineered Dodi’s relationship with Diana for just that purpose. This is something he has always denied.
Since Dodi and Diana’s deaths, Mr Al Fayed has alleged that MI5 – in league with, or at the behest of, Prince Phillip – had Dodi and Diana killed.
Is that something that a man who didn’t care about his son and only wanted to ingratiate himself with royalty would say? I think not. In fact, had he not said a word about it, the chances are he may well have been ‘adopted’ in some way by the royal family, even if only by way of lip service and as a visible and public mark of respect to the dead couple.
It is a belief that he boldly put forward at the time and still does. It’s his opinion that the notion of an Egyptian Muslim marrying the mother of the future King of England – and possibly having children who would probably be brought up in the Muslim faith – was one that the royal family simply couldn’t entertain, and therefore, according to Mohammed, the ‘establishment’ had his son and Diana ‘executed’.
It’s certainly a fact that a trail of mystery and fear seems to surround many issues where the couple’s deaths are concerned. When Jacques sought out Dodi’s friends and associates to take part in this film, apparently many of them refused out of fear of either being sued or being ‘silenced’. Some, Jacques reported, had received death threats that they were told would be carried out should they ever speak publically about Dodi and Diana.
Who made these threats? One can only speculate.
A few times during the film, we saw moving footage taken from a private film that Mohammed Al Fayed had commissioned featuring clips of Dodi – taken from other footage of him throughout his life – accompanied by a specially written song. The film was entitled ‘Father and Son’. He’d had it made as a tribute to Dodi for his personal use only.
This became a subject of more confusion to me about Jacques and this documentary too. At first, Jacques seemed to imply that Al Fayed’s film was nothing more than a crude Hollywoodesque attempt at schmaltz but just before the documentary ended, he quite emotionally remarked that he felt the film was, “like a scream of pain from Al Fayed” that had been made as grief wracked Mohammed.
However, Jacques brought up the subject of Dodi’s alleged drug taking with a number of his friends but only one said he’d actively seen Dodi using cocaine; everyone else denied it. But we also heard that Dodi was, at one time, paranoid about his security. So much so that if he’d left a drink unattended, he wouldn’t finish it fearing that it could’ve been spiked. Are those the actions of a man who regularly gets high?
I wouldn’t think so but of course, we’ll never know the truth because the only person who truly knows the truth about his drug taking or not is Dodi himself.
Another allegation that’s often been made of Dodi is that he was only with Diana in order to become famous. One of his friends said that Dodi had once said to him that he wanted to find a woman sufficiently famous that being with her would get Dodi’s picture on the front cover of People magazine. Sadly, his friendship with Diana was in fact to get his picture on that front cover but five days after it appeared, Dodi and Diana were both dead.
Perhaps more than anything, my overriding thought after watching this film was, be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.
If Mr Al Fayed did court the familiarity of royals, he got it in that he spent some time with Diana and her boys, but he lost a son to do so. If Dodi did, more than anything, crave seeing his face on the cover of People magazine, he got it, but only lived five more days to bask in that glory. If Diana was only with Dodi to make someone else jealous, she may well have achieved her goal but it cost her her life.
On the subject of Mohammed Al Fayed, I personally think he’s a much maligned man who, having invested millions of pounds in this country’s economy and invested equally as heavily in charities, still has not been granted citizenship simply because the ‘establishment’ doesn’t like him.
I believe Dodi was a ‘player’ but who knows how his and Diana’s budding relationship may have turned out? Perhaps they’d have lived happily ever after or maybe they’d have been over before the ink was dry on the headlines about them.
Whatever may have been, it’s just that; may have been. It’s all irrelevant now that both of them are dead and as to who is truly to blame for that fact, we will most likely never know but perhaps it’s time now to finally leave them both alone.