My 2015 Sundance US Documentary Competition profiles begin this week with Lyric R Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe’s (T)ERROR, an inside look at how an FBI counterterrorism informant operates.
Sundance Program Description:
After working for more than 20 years as a counterterrorism informant for the FBI, ***** has a choice to make. He can stay home to raise his son or do one last high-stakes job for the Bureau. Infiltrating terror networks and befriending suspected terrorists is *****’s specialty. He is one of a growing number of covert operatives in America who straddle the murky line between preventing crimes and inventing them.
Shot over the course of two years and with unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to a counterterrorism sting, (T)ERROR feels like a political spy novel set in your own hometown. A faceless character throughout, the FBI is an omnipresent force, pushing hard for results as ***** slowly closes in on his target. As secrets emerge from his past, ***** is caught between the consequences of his double life and mounting pressure from his handlers.
Taut, stark, and controversial, (T)ERROR illuminates the fragile relationships between individuals and the surveillance state in modern America, and asks who is watching the watchers?
Lyric R Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe were recognized on Filmmaker Magazine‘s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in 2013. Their collaboration marks photojournalist Cabral’s first feature doc and Sutcliffe’s second following ADAMA, which also focused on counterterrorism post-9/11 – the story of a Muslim Harlem teenager arrested by the FBI. Their producer, Christopher St. John, has been to Park City with THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (2012, US Documentary Grand Jury Prize) and REAGAN (2011), both directed by this project’s executive producer, Eugene Jarecki, who had earlier picked up the US Documentary Grand Jury Prize for WHY WE FIGHT (2005) as well. The film’s editors are Jean-Philippe Boucicaut, who cut CESAR’S LAST FAST (2014), AMERICAN BLACKOUT (2006), and CITIZEN KING (2004); and Laura Minnear.
Why You Should Watch:
Cabral and Sutcliffe have found a subject who becomes increasingly more intriguing as the film progresses, with revelations about his past affiliations having unusual resonance with his present, and decidedly problematic, work for the FBI. Shrewd storytelling choices – in particular a canny sense of dramatic pacing – result in a gripping viewing experience that might very well prompt viewers to want to rewatch the film as soon as it ends.
For more information, visit the film’s Facebook page.
For Cabral and Sutcliffe’s thoughts on the film, watch their Sundance Meet the Artists profile. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.
To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2015 Twitter list.