×

Informant

The unreliable-narrator docu develops a new wrinkle or two with "Informant."

With:
With: Brandon Darby, Scott Crow, Malik Rahim, Caroline Heldman, John Bryson, Brad Crowder, David McKay, Lisa Fithian, Michael May, Andrew Breitbart.

The unreliable-narrator docu develops a new wrinkle or two with “Informant.” Jamie Meltzer’s engrossing portrait lets Brandon Darby tell his own story — of a self-proclaimed far-left, anti-government activist-turned-FBI snitch now feted at Tea Party gatherings — while fellow travelers cast doubt on that testimony every step of the way. It’s an absorbing puzzle with the potential to intrigue viewers all along the political spectrum. Arthouse theatrical prospects are decent, broadcast and home-format sales a lock.

After an initial blitz of comments calling him everything from “the symbol of what radical activism could do” to a pathological liar, misogynist and paranoiac, we meet Darby himself, who gives off an oddly studied vibe even as he’s supposedly flubbing an initial direct-camera address.

Spending very little time discussing his earlier life, beyond a murky reference to possible trauma suffered as a teenage runaway, Darby says he developed a strong disdain from a young age for people abusing power. Moving to progressive Austin, Texas, he met Robert King Wilkerson, a former Black Panther, and others who shaped his notions of radical social change and revolutionary government overthrow. But when Darby recalls plans to break political prisoners out of lockup, former close ally Scott Crow (interviewed separately) exclaims, “That’s a total fabrication.” He says Darby often fixated on heroic-fantasy scenarios, while refusing to participate in the more tedious, consensus-based aspects of social-justice organizing.

While Darby’s Alpha-male approach irked many, no one belittles the work he, Crow and others did in post-Katrina New Orleans. Shocked by TV footage of stranded residents, floating corpses and looters, and concerned that Wilkerson was MIA there, Darby and Crow co-founded Common Ground Relief, which played a major role in orchestrating assistance and rebuilding communities in the disaster’s wake.

Those efforts won Darby praise and some curious opportunities, notably a trip to Venezuela (to “study revolution”) that fellow activists considered bizarre. He returned from that odyssey depressed and withdrawn, questioning his ideals. Back in Austin, he gained an FBI handler upon deciding to reveal his knowledge of money being funneled to Hamas, possibly funding suicide bombers.

But the now 33-year-old Darby was still a renowned militant activist to many, and he was welcomed with awe by a group of younger Austin anarchists planning to protest at the 2008 GOP National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. Many of those interviewed concerning the subsequent arrests of anarchists at the convention suggest Darby as the instigator of the actions.

Today, Darby is vilified as a turncoat in leftist circles, while celebrated as a patriot at Tea Party events. At one of these functions, he is seen drinking in the adoration, inflaming and pandering to this new audience’s biases. By the end, viewers may agree with others here that whatever beliefs or personal history Darby currently adheres to, he at least believes he’s right — after all, he’s the hero of his own story.

Pic is deftly crafted in all departments, with T. Griffin’s original score a notable plus.

Popular on Variety

Informant

Docu

Production: A Lucky Hat Entertainment presentation in association with Filament Prods. Produced by George Rush, Steve Bannatyne. Executive producer, Adam Spielberg. Directed, written by Jamie Meltzer.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Frazer Bradshaw; editors, John Kane, Meltzer; Summers Henderson; music, T. Griffin; sound, Meltzer, Emile Bokaer, Kelcey Edwards; sound designer/re-recording mixer, Dan Olmstead. Reviewed at San Francisco Film Festival, April 27, 2012. Running time: 81 MIN.

Cast: With: Brandon Darby, Scott Crow, Malik Rahim, Caroline Heldman, John Bryson, Brad Crowder, David McKay, Lisa Fithian, Michael May, Andrew Breitbart.

More Scene

  • 71st Emmys Governors Ball

    Why the Television Academy Plans to Donate Furnishings From the 71st Emmys Governors Ball

    The Emmys’ official after party is set to impress — and to leave a permanent impression. At the annual press preview of the 71st Emmys Governors Ball, the Television Academy announced a partnership with Living Spaces, Habitat for Humanity and the Hollywood Community Housing Project that will provide more than 80 custom sofas, chairs and [...]

  • Gaby Hoffmann, Albert Cheng, Alexandra Billings,

    'Transparent' Team Reflects on Series Finale Without Jeffrey Tambor

    Friday night’s premiere of the series finale of “Transparent” at L.A. Live’s Regal theater felt like a family reunion for the Pfefferman clan. Matriarch Judith Light embraced each one of her TV children (Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass) and guest stars from previous seasons (Cherry Jones, Melora Hardin, Bradley Whitford) who also turned [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Pom Klementieff poses at the launch

    Marvel Cinematic Universe Star Pom Klementieff Talks Disney-Fox Merger, X-Men Dreams

    Pom Klementieff may have entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe playing Mantis in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” followed by appearances in the last two “Avengers” movies, but that wasn’t her original superhero plan. “My dream was to be in X-Men,” she told Variety on Thursday at the Chanel dinner for its new fragrance Gabrielle [...]

  • Gwyneth Paltrow

    Gwyneth Paltrow to Be Honored at amfAR Gala Los Angeles

    Gwyneth Paltrow and art dealer Larry Gagosian are set to be honored at the 2019 amfAR Gala Los Angeles. The American Foundation for AIDS Research announced that the two honorees will receive the Award of Courage for their commitment in the fight against HIV and AIDS as well as for their other humanitarian efforts. Christina [...]

  • David Mandel Sam Richardson

    'The Handmaid's Tale,' 'Veep,' 'When They See Us' Writers Honored at Emmy Nominees Reception

    Ava DuVernay (“When They See Us”), David Mandel (“Veep”) and Bruce Miller and Kira Snyder (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) were among those honored at the Television Academy’s Emmy nominees writers reception on Tuesday night in North Hollywood. There, ceremony hosts, “Escape at Dannemora” star Eric Lange and “Veep’s” Sam Richardson, kept the show moving by tossing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content