TIFF 2020: Enemies of the State

Questions and conspiracies arise from one young man’s story of persecution in the intriguing documentary Enemies of the State.

Matt DeHart was accused of being involved with child pornography in 2010, but his parents felt something else afoot. They thought the FBI was after their son because he was hiding sensitive information uploaded onto his hacker server. Matt felt his hacking involvement with both Anonymous and Wikileaks made him a target since he had access to secrets the government didn’t want to be revealed. Sensing he was in danger, Matt first sought asylum at the Russian Embassy. After an interrogation where he was allegedly drugged, tortured, and jailed for several years, he then escaped to Canada. What follows is director Sonia Kennebeck’s descent into coverups, interrogations, and a search for the truth amidst conspiracies that pop up like endless rabbits from their holes.

Enemies of the State is intriguing as Kennebeck takes us from one side of a story about justice to look at the evidence with a fine-toothed comb. The DeHarts are what you would call upstanding citizens: All three family members served in the military, Paul, Matt’s father, is a pastor, and they are as all-American as you can get. The growing support for the DeHart family’s trials and tribulations seemed to help them pursue transparency as Matt’s story reached more eyes and ears and more fuel for conspiracy theories. At points in the film, you wonder if they are paranoid, or if the FBI is really that nefarious, but you also can’t completely dismiss the family’s fears.

At times, it’s a little challenging to keep track of Matt’s timeline, but you remain captivated nonetheless. There are interviews with lawyers from either side of the story, and a detective on Matt’s alleged child pornography charges who stood by his investigation. There’s also Professor Gabriella Coleman, a specialist on the group Anonymous, who points out fallibility in FBI claims, and some of Matt’s friends talk about his character. His parents are candid with their beliefs and how much they feared for their son’s mental and physical health. What was most compelling were the strange twists that crop up as we follow each person trying to make sense of the occurrences.

With crisp cinematography by Torsten Lapp and re-enactments playing out immigration hearings and interrogations, each point of view is vital as this journey unfolds, and you’ll feel slightly winded at the surprising resolution.

Check out the Toronto International Film Festival from Sep 10-20, 2020.

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