On July 21, Nitehawk Cinema & Tribeca Film Institute Summer Documentary Series presented (T)ERROR, a film that illuminates the fragile relationships between individual and surveillance state in modern America.
Q&A features Directors Lyric Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe along with Ramzi Kassem and Diala Shamas, attorneys with Project C.L.E.A.R. (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility). Moderated by Cara Cusumano (Senior Film Programmer, Tribeca Film Festival).
(T)ERROR is the first documentary to place filmmakers on the ground during an active FBI counterterrorism sting operation. Through the perspective of Saeed “Shariff” Torres, a 63-year-old Black revolutionary turned informant, viewers get an unfettered glimpse of the government’s counterterrorism tactics and the murky justifications behind them.
Winner of a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, (T)ERROR follows a 63-year-old FBI informant from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh on an assignment to befriend a suspected Taliban sympathizer. Yet first-time filmmaking team Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe soon conducts an investigation of its own. Without notifying their subject or the FBI, they interview the suspect and set the statements of the watched against the opinions of the watchers, until that inevitable moment when the Feds decide how to act on their information. A rare inside look at FBI undercover tactics in progress, (T)ERROR offers a thought-provoking analysis of the FBI as crime stoppers rather than investigators in post-9/11 America. Cabral and Sutcliffe create an impressive and courageous documentary that underlines the troubling results of an all-anti-terror mandate: a reliance on past offenders for access and new agents, a growing tendency to equate suspicion with guilt, a scandal-driven press, and methods that stretch the definition of entrapment. Intense and intricately crafted, (T)ERROR explores just how far we are going to prevent terror and exactly what liberties we are sacrificing to get there. —Arthur Ryel-Lindsey
Part of the 2015 Nitehawk Cinema and Tribeca Film Institute Summer Documentary Series.