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(T)ERROR poster.png
Directed by Lyric R. Cabral
David Felix Sutcliffe
Produced by Christopher St. John
Starring Saeed Torres
Music by Robert Miller
Release date
  • October 7, 2015 (2015-10-07)
Running time
84 minutes
Country United States
Language English

(T)ERROR is an American 2015 documentary film directed by Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe. The film follows undercover FBI informant Saeed "Shariff" Torres as he engages in a sting operation targeting a white Muslim man named Khalifah Ali Al-Akili.[1] The film won the Special Jury Award for Breakout First Feature at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered.[2][3]

It is the first documentary to follow an active FBI case while in progress.[4] It is the first film for Cabral and the second for Sutcliffe.[5] Sutcliffe said the film's intention was to show informants and their targets, and focus on the "decisions, tactics and objectives of counterterrorism cases."[6]

The film was re-titled FBI Undercover when broadcast in the UK by the BBC as part of their Storyville TV series.[7]

The story was also retold on This American Life.[8]


Co-director Cabral was a student living in Harlem when her downstairs neighbor of four years, Saeed Torres, disappeared in May 2005. Cabral's investigation into his disappearance eventually became the subject of her film.[9] Shortly before Torres' disappearance, Sutcliffe and Cabral met at an afterschool arts program, where one of their students, Adama Bah, a 16-year-old Muslim teenage girl was arrested by the FBI and accused of being a "potential" suicide bomber.[10] Her arrest triggered a growing interest for both Cabral and Sutcliffe in the FBI's counterterrorism tactics, and an increasing awareness of the central role of informants in the majority of domestic terror plots.


Critical reception[edit]

The film was received positively by critics. It received a 90% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 30 reviews.[11] It also received a score of 71 (generally favorable) on Metacritic, based on 10 reviews.[12] The consensus according to Rotten Tomatoes being "(T)ERROR should dishearten and disturb viewers concerned with the erosion of American civil rights — and it doesn't even hit its targets as hard as it could.".[11]

Writing for RogerEbert.com, film critic Brian Tallerico, who gave the documentary three and a half stars out of four, says that the film is a "fascinating piece of work that approaches CITIZENFOUR in its deconstruction of governmental failure and the systems underneath the war on terror that are not only failing to keep us safe but impacting the entire world political scene."[13]


The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences[edit]

Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Documentary (2017)[14]


Special Jury Prize for Breakout First Feature (2015)[2]

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival[edit]

Grand Jury Prize (2015)

International Documentary Association[edit]

Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe win Emerging Filmmaker Award (2015)


Independent Spirit Awards[edit]

Best Documentary nominee (2015)

Cinema Eye Honors[edit]

Spotlight Award nominee (2015)


  1. ^ "Extended interview with Khalifah al-Akili from Federal Prison; Says FBI Tried to Entrap Him (WEB EXCLUSIVE)". Democracy Now. 20 April 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Chang, Justin (31 January 2015). "Here are the 2015 Sundance Film Fest winners". Archived from the original on 25 March 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
  3. ^ Pilgrim, Sophie (25 April 2015). "US filmmakers unveil FBI tactics to snare Muslims". France 24. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  4. ^ Perez, Rodrigo (30 April 2015). "Hot Docs Review: FBI Informant Tale (T)error Is One Of The Most Riveting Documentaries Of The Year". The Playlist. Indiewire. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
  5. ^ Moylan, Brian (28 January 2015). "Sundance 2015 review: (T)ERROR – is entrapment always this boring?". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
  6. ^ Moynihan, Colin (2 September 2015). "'(T)error' Focuses on Informant and Piques F.B.I.'s Interest". New York Times. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
  7. ^ Newall, Sally (30 November 2015). "Storyville: FBI Undercover, BBC4 - TV review: There is no perfect solution in these difficult times". The Independent. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
  8. ^ "This American Life Episode 566: Act Two ("The Lyin' Kings") transcript". This American Life. Retrieved February 22, 2016. 
  9. ^ Bramowitz, Julie. "Sundance Doc (T)ERROR Blows the Lid Off FBI Informants". Vogue. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  10. ^ Bernstein, Nina (2005-05-07). "Elation in Harlem as Girl Held in Terror Inquiry Is Released". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-11-04. 
  11. ^ a b "(T)ERROR". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 22 February 2016. 
  12. ^ "(T)error". Metacritic. Retrieved 20 December 2015. 
  13. ^ "(T)ERROR". RogerEbert.com. 7 October 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
  14. ^ http://cdn.emmyonline.org/news_38th_winners_v02.pdf

External links[edit]