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TIFF 2020 Review: Enemies of the State

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An American hacker is denied refuge status in Canada and is deported back to the US where he claims to have been tortured in the name of national security.

The Internet has provided the means for sensitive information to be released worldwide in regards to the indiscretions of companies and governments; it also has a less altruistic side which allows for the proliferation of pornography and for sexual predators to manipulate and lure victims.  The elements of good and evil come together with the case of Matt DeHart who works for hacktivist group Anonymous and claims to have ties with Wikileaks.  Trouble started when highly classified and incriminating information was sent to him dealing with a CIA operation that was covered up by the FBI which he then stored on a series of hard drives.  Not long after this occurred a search warrant was issued for child pornography which led to the confiscation of the computers belonging to DeHart.  Are the two related or is one the truth and the other an elaborate lie?  These are the prevailing questions that filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck explores.

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Re-enactments fill in the narrative gaps with the parents of DeHart figuring prominently while he only appears through archival footage and by an actor portraying him.  Prosecutors and law enforcement officers are also given an opportunity to tell their side of the story.  As much as it aims to be a slick thriller, the documentary is marred by repetitiveness and a meandering narrative which leaves one wondering what is the point of all of us?  Could the US government be capable of persecuting a citizen and prosecute with manufactured evidence?  Absolutely.  But here is the thing.   Where is the actual physical evidence when it comes to the damning governmental information and the child pornography?  Everything comes across as hearsay.   Kennebeck seems to be favouring one answer and does a dramatic twist which resembles something conceived by M. Night Shyamalan.  Perhaps the messiness and inconclusiveness of the story resembles life itself but it leaves one wondering why the documentarian spent so much time and effort on the project to begin with.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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