Manufacturing the Threat
(Canada, 85 min.)
Dir. Amy Miller
“We were set up by the Canadian security apparatus. And it can happen to anyone. It could happen to someone else. It could be happening to someone right now,” says Amanda Korody in Manufacturing the Threat.
If you’re interested in any true crime documentaries, mixed with transformative social change, Manufacturing the Threat directed by Amy Miller, will be just for you. This feature-length documentary tells the story of couple Ana Korody and John Nuttall, also known as ‘Ana’ and ‘Omar’. They were accused of the ‘Canada Day bomb plot’ in which they were suspected of trying to blow up the B.C. legislature in 2013. However, it was revealed that they were radicalized by undercover agents of the Canadian state. Throughout this film, Miller unpacks the story for viewers and also brings in speakers like writer/academic Azeezah Kanji, lawyer and policy director Micheal Vonn, history professor Steve Hewitt, and activist/writer Alexander Popovic to share the history and trends of government organizations like CSIS and the RCMP, which collaborated in the case against Korody and Nuttall. The film also goes into detail of how the impact of 9/11 changed the government’s views on security, Muslim communities, and any group that is perceived to challenge the ‘status quo’.
Before the Canada Day bomb plot, Ana and Omar had very little money and lived on the streets in Surrey B.C. They started to convert to Islam as they saw a book called The Key to Understanding Islam while shopping in a store for boots. The book was free and something resonated with them both, which inspired them to convert. As they were converting, an undercover cop intercepted them one day after getting coffee and made up a story that his niece was missing and needed help. Ana and Omar, being the nice people they are, decided to aid him. However, in reality, it was just the start of a mission with the undercover agent trying to gain their trust and manipulate them to commit the bomb plot. This agent had done many things to try to gain their trust, like giving them money to support their living and teaching them a skewed view of Islam, including how to pray. He would spend around 10 hours a day with them ‘shoving crap down their throats,’ as Omar would say. However, Omar had a feeling that all of this was an act.
As the story progresses, Popovic, Kanji and several other talking heads speak about how organizations like CSIS make their own threats to national security in order to demonstrate their worth and a need for more funding. Omar and Ana are a prime example for this case. The film also goes into the history of how the RCMP was made and how it continues to reinforce the ‘Canadian status quo’.
Miller does a great job of presenting all of this information in her film so that viewers do not get lost and understand the truth that is brought forward. The interviews are shot in a straightforward manner with the visuals taking a backseat to the information, which Miller lays out carefully in order to make the evidence and testimonies the strength of this piece. The doc includes interviews and archival footage of Ana and Omar in cars and hotel rooms with the undercover agents. There is also archival footage of news and old newspapers along with B-roll of the city. Security and surveillance effects appear as title cards and overlays on footage that is shown, which mostly serves to give the impression of the world of surveillance we live in today, as we’re always being watched by our government. The music is suspenseful throughout, which adds to the true crime aspect of Manufacturing the Threat.
Overall, this documentary is truly eye-opening as we get to see a side of Canadian security that is not often made public and is usually kept secret. It shares the story of not only Omar and Ana, but how different communities may be recognised as threats just by their beliefs and how messy the system that is supposed to protect us can be. Miller urgently raises red flags to how these organizations function. The film can start the conversation of how Canadians can change the way they want to be protected.
Manufacturing the Threat played at the ReFrame Film Festival in Peterborough on Saturday January 27.