For the first hour of it’s running time, (T)error is a slow build doc that borders on tedious despite incendiary subject matter. We’re introduced to Saeed “Shariff” Torres, a black Muslim ex-con and informant who has been at the center of many terrorism sting operations for the FBI. At first co-directors Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe follow around Torres and let him recount his long career as an informant. Given that his work with the FBI led to the imprisonment of one of his closest friends and being disowned by much of his family, the informant has conflicted emotions about his job to say the least. It’s hard not to empathize with his position and yet given that he chose this particular path, he’s hardly free from blame.
Then in the last half hour of the film Cabral and Sutcliffe expand their scope and the film becomes fascinating. Without informing anyone else involved in their project, the directors approach the target of Torres’ latest sting individually and start gathering footage from both sides of the operation. At this point the movie becomes pulse-poundingly intense and also infuriating. It’s clear the victim is nervous about his relationship with Torres and the informant is hardly subtle in his attack. The entire operation reeks of entrapment in a manner that leaves a very sour taste in the audience’s mouth regardless of whether or not the cause was justified.
That final chunk of (T)error is so fascinating and thrilling that it elevates the entire doc into something that must be sought out. It’s amazing that the movie even exists and it’s overflowing with shaky ethics from the subjects and filmmakers that should lead to hours of caffeine-fueled debate for anyone inclined to enjoy such things. It’s safe to say there won’t be another documentary quite like (T)error again, if only because one would hope an organization like the FBI might be a bit more careful about letting filmmakers into their world in the future. It’s amazing what the organization let Cabral and Sutcliffe get away with this time and I can’t imagine it’ll happen again.
Sunday, April 26, 9:45pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Tuesday, April 28, 4:00pm, Scotiabank Theatre 4
Sunday, May 3, 11:30am, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1