Wednesday, July 13, 2016

(T)error Review

(T)error Review
Saeed Torres is a Muslim, whose job it was to entrap other Muslims.

At the end of "(T)error" a documentary off the festival trail and recently landed on Netflix, we learn that since 9/11 there have been 500 arrests in our nation of Muslims. We learn that 50% of those arrests were arranged by an FBI Informant. The FBI has been proactively recruiting American Muslims to find, befriend and possibly lead other Muslims suspected of terrorism to jail. This documentary focuses on Saeed "Shariff" Torres, who has been involved in several government stings for the FBI. He is close friends with the filmmaker, and he very upfront about his work done with the bureau. These informants don't receive any type of training, they simply meet people, befriend them, and then turn them in.

The film mainly focuses on Saeed going after a suspected Taliban sympathizer. Although, we don't get a lot of evidence of that. Sure, he has some anti-American speech on his Facebook page and he makes videos of him shooting a gun at a practice range. But nothing more ever gets proved in the documentary. We get so little face time with the FBI themselves (the FBI refused to comment for the documentary) that there is never a clear picture as to why this guy is being targeted. But Saeed knows him and he quickly begins a relationship with him, rigorously trying to figure out if this guy is a terrorist or not.

Much of the documentary is focused on Seed. He's a decent and approachable enough that he carries the movie. We learn how he got involved in being a FBI informant. We learn why he does it. He wants to open a bakery. He wants to provide a better life for his kid. We see him mostly as a dedicated family man with a taste for cigars. He's kind of got a sense of humor which makes him relate able. This sting between this latest "Taliban sympathizer" will be his last for the FBI, as he plans to make his plans come to fruition. At first glance, you'll tell yourself that this is an interesting character study about a guy who is trying to do some good, trying to prove that not all Muslims are bad and helping his country.

Except its not that easy. I was amazed how the tone and knowledge of this documentary changed on a dime. There are couple of twists so juicy that it reminded me of documentaries like "Catflish" and "The Imposter." It a movie I wish very badly that I could have seen with a theatrical audience, because I feel several gasps would have commenced. Saeed may not be the do-good informant we think he is, and with sources so scarce for this documentary, the filmmakers maybe talking to other people Saeed doesn't know about. It all turns into what feels like a crazy, corrupt episode of "Homeland."

"(T)error" is a hard lesson that tells us that the PATRIOT ACT has perhaps left American government officials paranoid. It also asks the question that maybe if we haven't had a terrorist attack in a few years, are we winning the War on Terror? The answer to that question the movie offers may not be what some Americans want to hear, but if this documentary is to be true, its the only bleak answer there is. 

FINAL GRADE: A

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