• BY Lyric R. Cabral & David Felix Sutcliffe | IN Crime
    Premiered February 22, 2016

About the Film

(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. MORE

"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 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 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. LESS

Film Credits

A Film by
Lyric R. Cabral
David Felix Sutcliffe

Produced and Directed by
Lyric R. Cabral and
David Felix Sutcliffe

Directors of Photography
Lyric R. Cabral
David Felix Sutcliffe

Robert Miller

Nyneve Laura Minnear
Jean-Philippe Boucicaut

Shirel Kozak

Executive Producers
Eugene Jarecki
Nick Fraser
Sally Jo Fifer
Lois Vossen

Christopher St. John

Supervising Producer for ITVS
David Eisenberg

Additional Cinematography
Tamirat Mekonnen
Akil Gibbons

Additional Editors
Anoosh Tertzakian
Todd Woody Richman

Consulting Editors
Lewis Erskine A.C.E.
Jonathan Oppenheim

David Felix Sutcliffe

Commissioning Editor for BBC Storyville
Kate Townsend-Vision

Associate Producer
Haroon Sheikh

Archival Producers
Lyric R. Cabral
Dan DiMauro

Photograph Retouching
Misra Walker
Lyric R. Cabral

Still Photographer
Mark Nevers

Additional Sound
Frisly Soberanis

Office Manager
Kara Elverson

Madison Ferris
Ian Greenspan
Andrew McLain
Tunisia Mitchell
Jake Rabinbach
Dawson Smith

Production Intern
Mina So

Teranex Operator
Evan Johnson

Paul Docherty
Peter Haas

Additional Animation
Aaron Hodgins Davis

Conform Editor
Ben Cortes

Audio Mix
Paul Levin

Supervising Mixer
Kevin Wilson

Foley Artist
Jason Trammell

Eric Alvarado

Post-Production Facility
Prime Focus

Music Rights Supervisor
John McCollough

Legal Counsel
Fernando Ramirez, Esq.

Additional Legal
Michael Ratner
Margaret Kunstler
Carey Shenkman
Victor Kovner
Kathy Manley
David Kuhn
Ben Wizner
Victoria Cooke
Hayden M. Goldblatt
Robert Stein

Production Accountants
Shine & Company LLP

Production Insurance
Front Row Insurance Brokers

Creative Consultant
Laura Poitras

Archival Materials Courtesy
ABC News VideoSource
Alvin Flythe
AP Images
C-SPAN Video Library
Dick Griffin
ITN Source/Reuters
Muhammad Siddeeq
NBC Universal Archives
Jane Rosenberg

Photographs by Gordon Parks, Courtesy and Copyright the Gordon Parks
Untitled, Chicago, Illinois, 1963 (3 images)
Malcolm X at Rally, Chicago, Illinois, 1963
Malcolm X Leads Muslims in Prayer, Chicago, Illinois, 1963
Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1963
Ethel Sharrieff, Chicago, Illinois, 1963


"Mississippi Mud"
Written by Valerian Smith and Bob Robin
Performed by Black Blood and the Chocolate Pickles
Courtesy of Tuff City Records

"Door Peeper"
Written by Tommy Tornado
Performed by Tommy Tornado backed by The Rude Rich & High Notes
Courtesy of Noise Problems

Special Thanks
Trevor Aaronson
Fahd Ahmed
Khalifah Ali Al-Akili
Hibo Al-Akili
Pascale Boucicaut
Shahid Buttar
Joshua Dratel
Frank Fournier
William Gorth
Karen Greenberg
Mike Healey
Dawoud Hakim
Nadia Hallgren
Ali Kareem
Leonard Lopate
Maysles Documentary Center
Alicia McWilliams-McCollum
Imam Salahuddin Muhammad
Maggie Murphy
National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms
Thom Powers
Tarik Shah
Marketta Simms
Project C.L.E.A.R.
Project SALAM
Saeed Shariff Torres
Saeed Shariff Torres’ son
Laura Vigilante
Imam Siraj Wahhaj
James “Yusuf” Yee
Funding Provided by
Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program
Tribeca Film Institute
New York State Council on the Arts
Chicken and Egg Pictures
Firelight Media Next Step Media Fund
Bertha Britdoc Journalism Fund.
International Documentary Association Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund
The Kindle Project

This program was produced by Stories Seldom Seen LLC., which is solely
responsible for its content.

(T)ERROR is a co-production of Stories Seldom Seen LLC, Charlotte Street
Films, and Independent Television Service (ITVS), in association with BBC
Storyville, VPRO, and DR, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting (CPB).

© 2015 Stories Seldom Seen LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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?


  • 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
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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?