America, the land of the free, has been a racist and intolerant country from its very inception. One which has thrived and prospered from spilling the blood of others. One which attempted to wipe out its own indigenous population and enslaved many others. Whilst the great USA claims to be a cultural melting pot, that seems largely to be as long as you’re white (and not a communist). It doesn’t take a genius to work out that since 9/11 a certain section of society may be the subject of a rather over-zealous racial profiling. As Assia Boundaoui’s new film demonstrates, it had been going on for a long time before then.
Growing up in an Arab-American neighbourhood outside of Chicago, Boundaoui was surrounded by rumours of surveillance activity within her community. Now a journalist and film-maker, she decided to investigate these occurrences and the results were shocking. The Feeling of Being Watched is their story. Undertaking extensive research and with dogged determination she uncovers an FBI counter terrorism operation code-named Operation Vulgar Betrayal.
The Feeling of Being Watched is a timely reminder that even if we live in a democracy it doesn’t guarantee our freedoms. It does, as Assia Boundaoui’s years of research and relentless endeavour show, offer some protections. This is the kind of documentary we need in an era of suppression. One which shows what can be achieved through good old-fashioned investigative journalism.
The Feeling of Being Watched screens at Human Rights Watch Film Festival on 18 & 20 March.