Based on a true story and the non-fiction book that followed, In the Skin of a Jihadist, this is the second screencasting film to show at this year’s selection at Fantasia. British journalist Amy creates an online persona, Melody, in order to come into contact with ISIS recruiters. Financially, she needs a good story right now.

Using a fake Facebook page, she poses as a new convert to Islam and starts looking, and quickly finds, radical extremists and ISIS supporters. She immediately begins an online relationship with a man named Bilel, who is open about his involvement with ISIS.

The initial investigation is fascinating. The videos, articles and posts that Amy navigates through are a disturbing window into what is really going on in our world. Something that we hear about when it makes the news but unless we actively seek it out, like Amy does, we don’t really acknowledge in our daily lives here in our corner of the world.

It’s also captivating to see, always through the computer screen, the reality of an extremist fighter like Bilel. From his first messages, which are friendly, casual, and filled with cute emojis and GIFs, he comes across as a regular guy. The video chats show him in his element, looking like what one would expect a Middle Eastern terrorist to look like: often in a jeep, wearing fatigues, always with his gun, in a dusty sand-filled environment. But friendly. He’s a nice guy, who occasionally gets into a gun fight and is sometimes surprised by an explosion.  But that’s his daily existence.

The trust between the two develops fairly rapidly. The whole point is that Amy wants to figure out how ISIS recruits and brings young European women to their cause, and war. Amy has done her research, and plays the role well. Very soon, Bilal wants her to become his wife.

This is interesting, tense, topical stuff. And like any good thriller, the tension is incessant. The danger is real, as Amy knows that if her true identity is found out she becomes an enemy of a world-reaching terrorist organization. Any slipped detail could give her away.

That’s one part of the story. Another is how this shows exactly how manipulation works. Everything Bilal does is relatable to how someone would act in order to seduce another person to get what they want. The only difference is in the politics. ‘’Melody’’ is already a convert  and sympathetic to the cause, so it’s not about an extremist convincing someone that their ideology is right, but it’s all about this man seducing this woman. Through emotional manipulation. Amy gets to know Bilal, his past, his family. They spend virtual time together and throughout all of it he is charming. Even her friend Kathy, whom Amy has shown some of the recorded video chats, thinks he’s hot. That’s how predators get you.

As a viewer, this is where things get a bit tricky. It becomes obvious at a certain point that Amy starts the see the real human being in Bilel and it begins to seriously cloud her judgment.  This is the equivalent of those moments in horror movies (or any movie, really) in which the character will make a really stupid, irrational decision that the viewer knows better they wouldn’t do in that situation, just so more drama can be created. Amy, who is a journalist, and who has already researched other cases in which girls were fatally manipulated in that same situation, should really know better.

This didn’t really take me out of it, but it does bring home the notion of how unfortunately easy it can be for people to be manipulated through their emotions. Empathy can be used as a weapon. And it’s one of the tactics used by many and in this case, a radical terrorist. Someone else might not have fallen for Bilel’s charm the way Amy has, but for the sake of creating more tension and danger, that’s what happens here.

Profile remains an incredibly efficient thriller, and a fascinating one. Had it been pure fiction, though, I’m not sure it would have been as effective. The fact that it deals with real-world situations is what makes it so compelling, and scary. We already know the threat of radical ideologies propagated by groups like ISIS, but this film also shows the threat of everyday lie and deceit. Which is facilitated by the online world.

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