Government surveillance is a hot topic at the moment. The revelation that the U.S data mines its own citizens was a turning point in an ongoing interest in the activities of major law enforcement groups. (T)error hits screens with impeccable timing, playing out like a slow burning, jazz-infused thriller; this expose shows the human side to the U.S domestic war on terror.
(T)error is a unique documentary in a myriad of ways; having for the first time, access to an undercover FBI informant in the midst of an investigation. Directors Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe take full advantage of this opportunity, leading the audience through the harsh reality of FBI recruitment and entrapment. Following 63 year old black revolutionary-turned informant, Saeed Torres, we see the chronological series of events that lead to the arrest of muslim man Khalifa Ali Al-Akili; intercut with the fallout of past convictions brought about through Saeed.
What (T)error does best is it’s expose drawing parallels between the FBI and the audience. The first half of the story exhibits strong themes of prejudice, manipulating the audience into both, exposing their own negative expectations of Islam, as well as exhibiting the creative license visual media has. Khalifa, always dressed in thwab and turban, is shown as a jihadists sympathizer - books of gorilla-warfare litter his room; Saeed makes numerous comments on the nasty nature of Khalifa. What isn’t shown, until Khalifia’s arrest, is the man with a family; a family whose safety he is deeply concerned for. Leading up to his conviction, Khalifia begins to be portrayed as a troubled, but often intelligent individual; someone who wishes to play no part in terrorism. The switch of character intent - as we become accustomed to Khalifia - forces the audience to take note of racial profiling, an important theme addressed throughout.
Saeed Torres sits in the centre of the film, his morality constantly in question. A heavily conflicted man, Saeed wrestles with his demons throughout this feature. At 63 years old, his options are thinning. A past revolutionary turned convict, Saeed sees too few options to provide for his young son and wife. Tarik Shah sits above Saeed as his greatest accomplishment and biggest regret. The task of an informant is to befriend a target, the relationship Saeed and Tarik have feels both earnest and heart wrenching. His mother voices the part of the story her son cannot, who is currently incarcerated, serving 15 years. During one of Saeed’s most notable assignments, he is to convince Tarik Shah to agree to teach martial arts to the Al-Qaeda. This manipulative nature, and the harsh punishments acted out by the FBI, shows an organisation with little thought for the people it targets, or the people tasked with these assignments.
(T)error is a fascinating and unique cinematic experience. Taking the audience to places not seldom seen - the close relationships place a human face to the secret activities of the war on terror.