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Review: FBI surveillance of Muslims hits home in ‘The Feeling of Being Watched’

(L-R)- Iman Boundaoui and Esra Rahima in a scene from “The Feeling of Being Watched.” Credit: Watch
The filmmaker’s sister, Iman Boundaoui, left, and friend Esra Rahima in the documentary “The Feeling of Being Watched.”
(Watched Films)

When director Assia Boundaoui begins investigating the FBI surveillance of her family’s Arab American neighborhood, one of her mother’s friend’s lovingly calls her a “troublemaker.” But with the digging that leads to the startling and effective documentary “The Feeling of Being Watched,” the journalist catches the eye of some powerful people and finds herself enmeshed in that trouble.

Boundaoui brings her skills as a reporter for the BBC, NPR, Al Jazeera, VICE and CNN back to her hometown of Bridgeview, Ill., to examine why the Muslim community in the Chicago suburb was a target of the FBI’s suspicion in the 1980s and 1990s, and if their mosques, homes and schools are still under watch today.

Fear and shock waft off “The Feeling of Being Watched,” and it evokes a few genuine gasps at the audacity of its villains. You feel like you’re watching a ’70s conspiracy thriller, but this is today and it’s nonfiction. Boundaoui uses home videos, archival footage and contemporary interviews to tell her story. Twitchy editing and surveillance videos work well to increase the tension.

“The Feeling of Being Watched” is focused and thorough, but it takes the time to place its events in a larger context. Expanding its scope beyond Bridgeview and Islamophobia, it looks at the larger question of how the United States government has targeted minority groups throughout its history.

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‘The Feeling of Being Watched’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes

Playing: Starts June 21, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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