“(T)ERROR” – 2015 Fantasia Film Review


In the documentary “(T)ERROR,” a part-time FBI informant (Saeed “Shariff” Torres) allows two filmmakers to follow him as he goes undercover in an effort to get close to a suspected terrorist sympathizer in Pittsburgh’s Muslim community.  He does not tell the FBI that he has allowed this.  The target, we learn, is a young American-born man who has posed with guns and made some rather radical statements on Facebook.  The informant’s job is to create an opportunity for the young man, through another informant, to commit to joining a terrorist organization.

However, thanks to some very unprofessional work by Informant No. 2, the target discovers he is being set up.  After consulting with a legal aide group, he decides to go public, and expose both the FBI and its pair of informants.  Seeking an even better story, the filmmakers – unbeknownst to Torres – take this opportunity to approach his target and offer to document his efforts to expose the FBI.

The film ultimately draws a portrait of Torres as an ex-con, living paycheck to paycheck, being both exploited and cheated by the FBI who have given him absolutely zero professional training.  Though he would like every job to be his last, he simply cannot afford to say no to the FBI when they call.  To his credit, what seems to bother him most is their insistence that he continue his efforts, even after it becomes clear to him that his target is all talk and no action.  Yet curiously, the filmmakers simultaneously make Torres look to be a man seriously lacking in principles given his willingness to befriend people, only to later betray them.  Yet isn’t that exactly what the filmmakers have done to Torres?

“(T)ERROR” received its Quebec premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival on July 19.  The festival runs through August 5.  For further information go to fantasiafestival.com.