Friday, January 30, 2015

The Sundance Film the FBI Doesn't Want You to See

(T)ERROR is the first film to document an active FBI counterterrorism sting investigation.

In the feature documentary (T)ERROR, which premiered this week at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, everyone is spying on everyone: the informant on the target, the target on the informant, the FBI on the informant, the filmmakers on the FBI.

Incredibly, directors Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe manage to film not just the one doing the surveilling but also the one being surveilled — without either subject knowing the other is also appearing on-camera.

It’s a daring feat made even more impressive when you realize the FBI has no idea that the informant they’re using is in fact simultaneously using them.

But unlike Homeland or some John le CarrĂ© novel, where spying is sexy and the characters are all perspicacious, (T)ERROR depicts the reality of today’s domestic intelligence gathering: it is not glamorous, the vernacular is informal, the surveillance techniques utilized include “advanced” approaches like trying to befriend someone on Facebook, and incompetence abounds (at one point a confidential phone number is discovered by typing it into Google).