It is a well-known fact that the FBI is actively engaged in its anti-terrorism campaign and that hundreds have been charged since the war on terrorism began. What is shrouded in ambiguity are the methods adopted to gather evidence. Directed by Lyric R Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe, (T)Error is a daring documentary offering a rare chance to witness the proceedings of the FBI from an insider’s viewpoint. The FBI’s goal is to “stop crimes before they happen,” and while this sounds like a reassuring practice, it is highly controversial from a moral perspective because when accusations are to be based on intentions alone, it is impossible to determine where one can draw the line. The general practice is to “prevent crime” by luring suspects into misbehaving, and arresting them if they take the bait, but the fault in this strategy is that someone deemed a decent citizen is arguably as likely to engage in illegal activities if offered large sums of money or increased power.
The cameras follow FBI informant Saeed, an African American man contacted by an agent and asked to befriend a Muslim suspect. A Muslim himself and an ex-convict, Saeed has taken on similar assignments in the past, one of which led to the conviction of one of his close friends. The target of the current operation is Khalifah, a young Muslim convert who was raised a Protestant and now holds controversial views bordering on extremism, which he openly shares on social networks. As soon as Saeed successfully infiltrates Khalifah’s circle, there is a surprising twist in the documentary. Khalifah uses Facebook to reveal his suspicions that he is being spied on, and the filming crew, unbeknown to Saeed, contacts Khalifah to get his side of the story. Neither knows that the other is being filmed, and it suddenly becomes clear that both are pawns of a bigger game beyond their control.
Khalifah decides to hold a conference to denounce the fact that he feels persecuted by the FBI, but he is soon arrested without any solid evidence against him. The documentary strives to maintain neutrality and rather than assigning blame, it appears to be criticising the system at large and pointing out that all those involved will inevitably get stuck in a catch-22. Bold and thought-provoking, (T)Error ultimately implies that the need to find a scapegoat ends up surpassing all questions of logic and fairness. By covering just one story, the directors manage to convey the sense that a single faulty premise in the system ends up negatively affecting an entire community.
(T)ERROR does not yet have a UK release date.
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