This was one of the best and most memorable films I saw at TIFF this year, an unexpected surprise that disarmed me and disoriented me, and since I want it to do the same for you, this is going to be a sparse and succinct review.
Sonia Kennebeck’s documentary is about Matt Dehart, who in 2009 was accused and charged by the FBI for possessing child pornography and soliciting minors for sex on the internet. Matt claims these accusations are fabricated to punish and distract from the truth. That Dehart, a former U.S. Air National Guard intelligence analyst, was involved with the Anonymous hacker group and WikiLeaks, and claimed to possess classified documents alleging serious misconduct by the CIA. Matt Dehart counters that his arrest was a ruse to discredit him and an easy way to seize and search his computers for the documents.
Matt’s parents, Paul and Leann, both former U.S. military themselves, come to believe their son, and the whole family becomes embroiled in this cat and mouse chase, from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada, where they sought refuge in Canada, claiming Matt had been tortured in prison upon his arrest.
This story is a delicious, irresistible true crime rabbit hole with so many twists and turns you’ll suffer whiplash from jerking your head in opposing directions so many times. Every new interview seems to contradict the last and the documentary thrives when it pits these two narratives against each other. Is Matt a pedophile or a martyr to espionage? Is this treason or whistleblowing or just a clever and convoluted defense strategy? You can try to be analytical about connecting Kennebeck’s dots, but there are red herrings all over the place, from anthrax to the mob, and that thing called ‘truth’ seems impossible to pin down.
We have a natural and insatiable appetite for conspiracy theories and Kennebeck knows what she has in this doc: an addicting, shocking, ambiguous array of breadcrumbs, and she’s very savvy about how she plants them. Enemies of the State is an excellent, absorbing reminder that we live in a time with access to so much information, but very few paths to the truth.