Based around news and vlog footage taken between 2015 and 2018, and surrounding the 2016 election in particular, AMERICAN THIEF is a dramatic interpretation of what happens when the worst of us comes out to play. An out of control government, a social uprising, AI and social media on the loose, and hackers getting caught up in the middle are part of the intricate and intense rollercoaster of AMERICAN THIEF.
Toncruz (Xisko Maximo Monroe) is a teenage hacker trying to avenge his father’s wrongful death at the hands of law enforcement. Diop (Khadim Diop) is using his hacking skills to frighten people into recognizing the dangers of internet surveillance and government interference. This leads both of them into a deep web game they weren’t prepared for, as video blogger Paul Hunter (Ben Becher) shares his conspiracy theories to his youtube channel, leading them all to be contacted by a mysterious and unidentified internet user, who connects them to information that they believe can expose the truth they’re seeking. This leads them down a dark and twisted path where truth is masked as lies, and lies as truth, and it’s up to them to decide what’s real, and where they stand.
A timely and relevant foray into the world of the dark web, AMERICAN THIEF ambitiously slams the real world into a dramatic narrative that will have you sitting at the edge of your seat. The more the story unfolds, the less it’s clear who is on what side, and what the truth is. In the real world, we are constantly barraged with “fake news”, a term that has become increasingly more relevant in the last four years. Deep Fakes and computer-driven trickery is more prevalent now – where you can make anyone look like they’re saying anything, or digitally edit footage and audio so seamlessly that it makes the real world look fake (and the false look real). It’s getting harder to discern lies from the truth, at a time where doing so could not possibly have higher stakes.
AMERICAN THIEF is a bold hybrid undertaking nearly 5 years in the making. Fictional characters intertwine with real life events, and according to the film’s website, pieces of the script and plot points were altered in real time as events occurred. It’s incredible to find that a film that took its time to come to fruition, as it followed the historic events leading up to the 2016 election, is more relevant and important now than anyone could have possibly imagined when they set out to make it.
AMERICAN THIEF is, and will remain for years to come, a time capsule of events that even now I have trouble believing were real. While the fictional narrative is remarkable and thrilling, what sticks with me is the real life events that inspired the drama. We have collectively lived through a remarkable, traumatic, frightening, hopeful, revolutionary time, and I am thankful for filmmakers like Miguel Silveira, Michel Stolnicki, Missy Hernandez, and the entire cast and crew behind AMERICAN THIEF for preserving these moments, and this story, for generations to come.