AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2012
By Don Simpson | November 7, 2012
Director: Jamie Meltzer
After Better This World (which was one of my favorite documentaries of 2011), I admittedly questioned whether or not the world would need another documentary about Brandon Darby and the “Texas Two” — David McKay and Bradley Crowder. Luckily Jamie Meltzer’s Informant takes a different approach from what had already been done before in Better This World. While both films bring to question Darby’s precarious role as an FBI informant, Meltzer’s documentary opts to focus primarily on Darby, allowing him ample opportunity to spew his side of the story.
From most accounts an ego-maniacal jerk, it is no surprise that Darby seems to enjoy having his time in the spotlight. It is impossible to tell if Darby has even considered whether or not he should trust Meltzer; if anything, Darby is so damn confident in his side of the story that he probably assumes that everyone will agree that he was right in his actions. And, for the most part, Meltzer tries not to cast judgement upon Darby. Instead, Meltzer spends a lot time focusing on the positive things that Darby had accomplished as a political activist; first and foremost his relief and rehabilitation efforts in post-Katrina New Orleans. Already knowing Darby’s future, I found it difficult to stomach the [mostly] praise about his past…
When Meltzer reveals that Darby traveled to Venezuela to raise funds for his relief program in New Orleans, it finally becomes clear why Darby eventually turned against his American comrades. As it turns out, Darby’s trip to Venezuela was not quite what he expected. He saw the downside of the political unrest being perpetuated by leftist radicals: constant war. This prompted Darby to eventually go to the F.B.I. and commence his career as an informant.
Darby eventually embeds himself in a “terrorist” cell in Austin as it prepares to protest (and disrupt) the 2008 Republican National Convention. His role within the group of radicals depends upon who you ask. According to Darby, he was essentially just a fly on the wall; but, according to McKay and Crowder, Darby was a mentor and a leader. The most important question will never be known: Would (or could) McKay and Crowder had built eight Molotov cocktails if Darby was not part of their group?
Like Better This World, your perception and opinions of Informant — which won the Documentary Feature Jury Award at the 2012 Austin Film Festival — will rest heavily upon your political persuasions; but no matter what you think of Darby, McKay and Crowder’s past and present politics, hopefully Informant will at least make you question the legitimacy of embedded police and F.B.I. informants.