This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

10Jun/15

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH FILM FESTIVAL 2015: (T)ERROR

(T)ERROR

Documentary sheds light on curious side of FBI counterterrorism efforts

(T)ERROR (Lyric R. Cabral & David Felix Sutcliffe, 2015)
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Sunday, June 14, $14, 9:00
Festival runs June 11-21 at multiple venues
ff.hrw.org/new-york
www.terrordocumentary.org

(T)error is a great name for a horror movie, but even though it turns out that Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe’s debut is not part of that genre, there still is plenty scary about it. Winner of the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Break Out First Feature at Sundance, (T)error is a surprising look inside one aspect of the FBI’s counterterrorism program. Shortly after Saeed “Shariff” Torres, a friend and neighbor of filmmaker and photojournalist Cabral’s, suddenly disappeared, he contacted her, eventually letting her inside his secret career as a longtime FBI informant. A Muslim and former Black Panther revolutionary, the sixty-three-year-old school kitchen employee and father of a young son goes on camera as he takes on what he claims will be his final assignment, cozying up to a Pittsburgh man named Khalifa Ali Al-Akili, previously known as James Marvin Thomas Jr., who the FBI thinks might be involved in terrorist plots. It’s not exactly the most thrilling game of cat and mouse; Cabral and codirector Sutcliffe (Adama) follow Shariff as he goes about a lot of mundane business, arguing over how much money the FBI gave him, text-messaging back and forth with agents and his prey, examining Facebook pages, and Skyping with his son, whose face is blurred for protection. And Sharrif is not quite the kind of well-trained operative you read about in books or see in action-packed movies, making one wonder just what the FBI is thinking — and how it’s spending our money — especially after a major twist occurs about halfway through the film, turning everything around and inside out, providing a new vantage point that makes the whole sting operation even more bizarre and surreal. But it’s all too real, and rather frightening in its own very strange way. (T)error is screening June 14 at 9:00 at the IFC Center as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, with Cabral and Sutcliffe participating in a Q&A with Human Rights Watch deputy Washington director Andrea Prasow. The festival runs June 11-21 at IFC, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and the Times Center, featuring such other socially, culturally, and politically sensitive and important works as Marc Silver’s 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets, Laurent Bécue-Renard’s Of Men and War, Laura Nix’s The Yes Men Are Revolting, and Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence.

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