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3.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Informant is a fascinating portrait of Brandon Darby, a radical left-wing activist turned FBI informant. In 2005, Darby became an overnight hero when he traveled to Katrina-devastated New Orleans and braved toxic floodwaters to rescue a stranded friend. Soon after, he co-founded Common Ground, a successful grassroots relief organization. But over the next few years, he began hiding a shocking secret. After two young protestors were arrested at the 2008 Republican National Convention, Darby revealed he had been instrumental in their indictment as an FBI informant. Today, having renounced his left-wing past, he is a tea-party darling who writes regularly for the right-leaning web site Breitbart.com. The only film with access to Darby since his public confession, Informant meticulously constructs a picture of Brandon's life - before and after the many death threats he has received - through interviews and tense reenactments starring Brandon himself. Darby's version of events is accompanied - and often contradicted - by evidence from acquaintances and expert commentators, posing complicated questions about trust and the nature of reality. As David Hanners of St. Paul Pioneer Press suggests, "When you interview people about Brandon Darby, you realize that everyone has a different idea of who he is." In addition to trying to unlock the mystery of Darby, Informant offers an powerful insider look at the hidden use of informants in contemporary America - an especially timely issue in light of the recent leaks about government surveillance.

Product Details

  • Actors: Brandon Darby, David McKay, Scott Crow
  • Directors: Jamie Meltzer
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Music Box Films
  • DVD Release Date: November 19, 2013
  • Run Time: 81 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,348 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Amazon Video
This review contains what is considered "plot spoilers." Since this is a documentary of events that have happened, I consider the ending a foregone conclusion.

This is a lower tier documentary. It is like someone describing a football game he was in while showing you pictures of the stadium and players when it was over. Brandon, a white guy from Texas, becomes appalled that white communities post Katrina formed groups of vigilantes patrolling their own neighborhoods. He doesn't trust government, so he opts to help the Ninth Ward district on his own, because as a private citizen he can do more than FEMA and the Red Cross combined. Brandon is clearly not a rocket scientist. There are topographic reasons while this lower district should not be rebuild, i.e. it won't stay above water much longer, but to many people it is home, even those without gills.

Brandon attracts the attention of the FBI and agrees to play a snitch. He infiltrates a group of Austin anarchists who want to disrupt the GOP convention in St.Paul, a small group out of 1,000s of protestors. This group decides to cross the line on activism, something Brandon could have easily prevented being a role model, but he chose not to. Instead he allowed them to create a situation that needed to be stopped. Some call it patriotism, others call it entrapment. If a man starts a fire, then puts it out himself do we praise him as a firefighter or curse him for being an arson?

Being outed, Brandon has screwed his life up so much that the only people who would talk to him was the Tea Party, which seemed to mesh with his intellect and desire to destroy government from the right instead of the left.
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Format: Amazon Video
I watched this documentary the day after the `NATO 3' -- the three loudmouthed activists who were charged as terrorists after being encouraged by undercover police officers to pour gasoline into empty bottles during the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago -- were sentenced to several [more] years of prison.

The NATO 3 case is very similar to a case during the 2008 Republican National Convention when a couple of young activists were arrested and sent to prison after creating some Molotov cocktails which they intended to use to damage empty police cars. In that case, the suspects were betrayed by an FBI informant who was a member of their activist group and acted as their mentor.

That informant, the infamous Brandon Darby, is the subject of this excellent documentary by Jamie Meltzer. In his review of Informant for his Vice blog, DJ Pangburn calls it an "unnecessary film" and a "failure of a documentary" charging that it merely provides Darby with a platform from which to spout his narratives. As Panburn puts it, "it's Brandon Darby's world, and we all are just living in it."

Kris Hermes, in his review on Huffington Post, makes the same complaint, that Meltzer allows Darby too much control of the film's narrative: "it's almost as if Darby decided one day to call up his friend Jamie Meltzer to let him know about a great movie idea." Allowing him a voice in yet another documentary, Hermes asserts, merely fortifies Darby's cult of personality

And they're right, the film is largely a mouthpiece for Darby (although it also provides context and tells the story through entertaining re-enactments and interviews). But that's also what makes the film so valuable -- not to mention just plain interesting.
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This documentary is, at its core, about the stories people tell to themselves and others about their actions and place in the world. The director did a terrific job letting Mr. Darby express the painful and emotional arc of his career as an activist then an informant, juxtaposing his former anarchist and leftist friends throughout as contrary and interrogative voices. The film pressed home for me the messy and contingent nature of the political and moral spheres - yet for all that, at the end of the day, we are still compelled to act by what our best lights demand of us. That is the moral of Mr. Darby.
I would have liked to have seen more on what attracted Darby to Andrew Breitbart's Tea Party conservative populism. The irony that the so-called Tea Party is more in line with his original populist, anarchist, grassroots ideals than the Leftist power structures he came in contact with is a rich mine for, I hope, more analysis in future works.
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