2020, Movies

Enemies of the State (2020, Sonia Kennebeck)

This is a masterful documentary about an American potential whistle-blower accused of child pornography and related charges, who took refuge in Canada. I paid no attention to the story at the time, so the entire thing was new to me.

Before I get to the review: if you like documentaries about the nature of truth, you should see this movie and you should see it without learning anything else about it. Also, if you know anything at all about the Matt DeHart story, you should see this movie.

SPOILERS

The storytelling of this film is excellent. I love a good reveal and this film does an excellent job of convincing you it is on DeHart’s family’s side from the get-go. At first, that seems like a good thing, as most of what DeHart and his family claim seems plausible. (This is especially true if you know what the US government has been up to, especially since 9/11, in the attempts to find and catch terrorists.)

But then DeHart’s mom says something insane and you start worrying that the film has bought their story hook, line and sinker. I started wondering what the angle would be: would they really be claiming they were all telling the truth? Or would this be an equivocation? Even if they’re a little paranoid, that doesn’t mean the government isn’t after them.

Neither, it turns out. The film deftly shifts from trusting the protagonists to distrusting them. It’s one of the more impressive turns I’ve seen in a documentary recently, as it delays the reveal to quite late in the film but also leaves room for us audience members to argue about what really happened afterwards.

I also want to mention how well shot it is. The interviewees are extremely well shot and a lot of thought has been put into how to tell the story in a way that doesn’t reek of documentary cliches. I didn’t necessarily love every reenactment – the hearings are better than the torture – but, for the most part, it’s much more creatively filmed than most documentaries you will see.

Just excellent.

9/10

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