Fantasia 2015 Review: (T)ERROR Makes An Uneasy Case
During one last job, which seems like something out of a Hollywood film or spy novel, the filmmakers are able to follow their friend Saeed Torres/Shariff, an African-American Muslim and former criminal, on one particular person-of-interest case. Strangely, Torres does not see fit to inform his FBI superiors of the documentary coverage.
That's not to say that Torres is a sociopath or unsympathetic character. He loves his young son and despises having to travel away from him. But we also find out that in some manner or other, he's squandered quite a bit of money, the cause of which is never revealed to us.
In his youth, Torres was part of the Black Panthers, and was later arrested for impersonating an officer in addition to robbery. Naturally, the FBI decided to make him an offer to work for them as an informant or go to jail for a few decades. It's not a real choice; waste away in jail or work for the government.
In fact, he helped convict a friend and jazz bassist in New York for simply speaking about training terrorists, which put a father in prison and made Torres an ostracized, lonely man. He's now sent to Pittsburgh to befriend a Caucasian, Protestant-raised man named Khalifah, who's smart enough to know when he's being profiled by the FBI but not smart enough to know that endorsing possible terrorism on Facebook is generally noticed and frowned upon by his country.
Like Minority Report, (T)error focuses on what MIGHT happen, as opposed to what crime, if any but supremely bad taste, has been committed. The problem is, this is reality, not science fiction. In an interesting twist of "ethics," not that I'm sure that there are any on display here, the filmmakers begin talking to Khalifah, the person of interest, and a new side of the story comes out.
He's portrayed as a soft-spoken convert of Islam, despite his bravado Facebook profile and persona. On Torres' side, the FBI keeps pushing him to talk to Khalifah and try to get information from him. There's also a watchdog group that aims to keep minorities aware of how not to be targeted and detained by the authorities, but you'd think that Khalifah wouldn't brag about becoming a martyr and mentioning the Taliban on social media.
So, who's right and who's wrong? The answer is no one, and everyone. It seems that on the most surface level, we've entered a new era of the Red Scare, and that only the names have been changed. It's all about fear. Fear creates anxiety, as well as bad decisions. All are illuminated on display here.
While (T)error isn't an amazing documentary, it does serve its own purpose. Does acting stupid warrant jail time, tax payer dollars, and the deportation of your family? Where does the paranoia end? Hopefully, we'll be able to answer that in our lifetimes.