February 22, 2016


Lyric Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe

With twists and turns fit for an espionage thriller, (T)ERROR goes deep inside an active terror sting without FBI consent.


About the Documentary

(T)ERROR is the story of a 62-year-old Black Panther-turned-counterterrorism informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is the first film to document a covert terrorism sting as it unfolds. With unprecedented access to both the informant and the target, (T)ERROR captures the drama and intrigue of a spy novel, but with very real consequences.

Shariff” has been an FBI informant for decades, helping foil several terrorist plots, but the mounting strain of his risky trade and an unlikely acquaintance with a filmmaker leads him to document his last counterterror assignment, knowing all too well he’ll face repercussions from his handlers.

As the case plays out, the film explores Shariff’s own turbulent and extraordinary personal history, from “revolutionary patriot” in Harlem to train-robbing convict, before eventually becoming a foot soldier in the war on terror.

The result is a unique look into the complex and shadowy process by which the government tries to identify and address potential jihadist threats before they can manifest, and puts a human face on the people who are recruited to do the bidding of the American government, often risking their reputation and their lives as a result. Taut, stark, and controversial, (T)ERROR illuminates the fragile relationships between individuals and the surveillance state and asks: who is watching the watchers?

The Filmmakers

Lyric Cabral

Lyric Cabral is a New York-based filmmaker and photojournalist who has received artist grants from BBC Storyville, the Tribeca Film Institute, the Sundance Institute, ITVS, NYSCA, the International Documentary Association (IDA), and the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund. (T)ERROR is her first feature length documentary, and premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it won a Special Jury Prize for Break Out First Feature. Cabral, along with co-director David Sutcliffe, was honored by IDA with the 2015 Emerging Filmmaker Award. (T)ERROR was also a recipient of the 2013 Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant, awarded by the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. In 2013, Cabral was named by Filmmaker Magazine as one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film.” Her photography has been published through Aperture Foundation, National Geographic Channel UK, The Nation, and the Village Voice, and exhibited with "Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument.”

David Felix Sutcliffe

David Felix Sutcliffe is a Sundance Award-winning documentary filmmaker. In 2013, he was included in Filmmaker Magazine's annual list of "25 New Faces of Independent Film." His first film, Adama (PBS), is an hour-long documentary that explores the story of a 16-year-old Muslim girl growing up in Harlem who was arrested by the FBI on suspicion of being a “potential suicide bomber.” Along with (T)ERROR co-director Cabral, Sutcliffe was honored by the International Documentary Association with the 2015 Emerging Filmmaker Award. In 2014, he was selected as a fellow for the Sundance Institute's Edit and Story Lab, as well as their Creative Producing Lab. His work as a filmmaker has been funded by the BBC, the NEA, the Tribeca Film Institute, the Sundance Institute, and ITVS.

Full Credits


  • News & Documentary Emmy Award

    Outstanding Investigative Documentary

  • IDA Award

    Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award

  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

    Grand Jury Award

  • Sundance Film Festival

    Special Jury Prize: Breakout First Film

  • Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival

    F:ACT Award - Honorable Mention

Learn more about the documentary

Join the Discussion

Do counterterrorism surveillance programs like the one in this film make you feel safe, even when they blur the lines of civil liberties? Do the ends ever justify the means?


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