Hot Docs 2015: (T)error – David Felix Sutcliffe and Lyric R. Cabral 

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Screening tonight at the Lightbox at 9:45pm is this thriller of a documentary, that pulls the curtain back from the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts within the continental United States and the revelation that it isn’t all as above-board and by the book as the public would like to believe.

Saeed, alias Shariff, an ex-con has been working with the FBI as an informant for the past 20 years as part of their work and monitoring of certain Persons of Interest. Saeed was offered the deal instead of jail time and since then has been in a prison of the Agency’s devising, doing what he’s told, even if, in some cases, it seems downright moronic. As their questionable ethics begin to wear on him, as well as the desire to look after his young son, and work as a baker, he agrees to one last assignment, and then he’s out.

He’s also made the decision, without his superiors ok, to allow a documentary crew to follow him and record his last mission, and interaction with both the Bureau and his assignment. Moving across the country, he resettles into his new neighborhood and assignment, a young man calling himself Khalifah. His role is to interact with Khalifah, buddy up to him, and not entrap him to suggest anti-American sentiments and actions, but to nudge him along until Khalifah makes or does those things himself.

Saeed is haunted by a prior case he was involved in, and one the documentarians follow-up on, as we see it in first one light, and then as revelations are made about Bureau practices and objectives, in another.

As Saeed becomes more uncomfortable in his dealings with Khalifah, convinced the young man is no real threat, the Bureau pushes back, and the man rumbles to the fact that he believes he’s been targeted by the FBI. As the cat and mouse games continue, events escalate, and the Bureau is determined to get ‘their man’ even if he’s innocent, and no matter what the fallout is for his family.

With the exception of anyone in the FBI, the filmmakers work to talk to all parties involved, and what is revealed is a dangerous game and standard being set by one of the premier law enforcement agencies in the States. There are times when Saeed just seems to be talking a good game, but a large portion of the evidence backs up a lot of what he’s talking about and Khalifah’s fate leaves little doubt in the viewer’s mind what the Government can be capable in light of a perceived threat and the need to be seen to be doing something about it.

(T)error screens twice more during the festival, Tuesday, April 28th at 4:00 at Scotiabank and Sunday May 3 at 11:30am back at the Lightbox.

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