Sunday, April 21, 2013
"Informant": The mysterious life of activist Brandon Darby: did he really switch sides?
FilmfestDC offered the documentary “Informant”, by Jamie Meltzer, at the NYU Auditorium near Franklin Square yesterday. If there is such a thing as a documentary thriller, this 85-minute-film fits the bill. It felt like the perfect complement to “Paris under Watch” Friday night.
The film tells the story of activist Brandon Darby, now about 38, who switched political allegiances because of his desire to act in a way that “helps people” immediately. Brandon was raised near an oil refinery near Houston, but moved to Austin as a young man. He has a daughter, although the film does not deal with his romantic life at all.
In 2005, he drove to New Orleans after Katrina to help survivors, and actually swam through toxic water (against police orders) in the Ninth Ward to rescue a stranded friend. His bravery and willingness to take personal risks to help others is quite striking. He helped organize “Common Ground” at the grassroots. Later, he traveled to Venezuela and Colombia and his feelings about left-wing activism changed. He began to see the Left as highly indignant, and possibly leading the country simply into destructive anarchy. Ironically, though, he felt that a little anarchy was a good thing. Tea party and libertarian values started to appeal to him.
Through a twist in his personality that is hard to explain, he, after being approached, decided to help tie FBI working undercover to “entrap” protestors planning to disrupt the Republican Convention in St. Paul, MN (at the Xcel Center, which I remember).
He “worked” with a couple of idealistic young men who wanted to make Molotov cocktails and throw them at parked police and “rich people’s” cars. The activists rationalized their activity by saying they would damage property only, not hurt people. But when Brandon probed them about the possibility someone could get hurt, they were willing to take that risk. (I pointed this out in the QA afterwards, that political and religious radicals – particularly the extreme Left -- often think that regular people have it coming to them – even one of the Boston “people” is reported to have said that – and some audience members sounded offended).
The young activists (themselves from Austin) would be arrested, prosecuted and do jail time for federal offenses WMD possession. (“Property damage” alone can kill people, by the way – look at the RF or EMP “threat” discussed elsewhere, as on April 13 on the Books blog). Brandon had worn a wire (which could be interesting, if you remember a particular scene from “Se7en”). The defense would claim that the young men had been set up.
The far Left considered Brandon to be a “snitch”, and the "fibbies" even offered Brandon witness protection, For a public person like him (or even me), of course, that’s impossible.(as in the 2006 Lifetime film “Family in Hiding”).
This film should not be confused with a similar film about activism, “The Informant”, with Matt Damon, reviewed here Sept. 18, 2009.
Official site is here.
For documentary, this film kept me on the edge of my seat. The style of filming did interview people (including Brandon Darby in his Austin home), but it bordered on docudrama. The subject matter seems to belong to a John Grisham thriller.
The main production company is Lucky Hat. Will this film wind up on HBO or PBS Independent Lens, or maybe be rebroadcast by CNN? I’d like to see a theatrical company pick it up first.
Pictures: New Orleans (2006), St. Paul Mississippi River (2002), mine.