When a filmmaker investigates rumors of surveillance in her Arab-American neighborhood in Chicago, she uncovers one of the largest FBI terrorism probes conducted before 9/11 and reveals its enduring impact on the community.
In the Arab-American neighborhood outside of Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Assia uncovers hundreds of pages of declassified FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counterterrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S. before 9-11 – code-named “Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” With unprecedented access, The Feeling of Being Watched weaves the personal and the political as it follows the filmmaker’s examination of why her community fell under blanket government surveillance. Assia struggles to disrupt the government secrecy shrouding what happened to her neighborhood in the 90’s and probes why her community feels like they’re still being watched today. In the process, she confronts long-hidden truths about the FBI’s relationship to her community. The Feeling of Being Watched follows Assia as she pieces together this secret FBI operation, while grappling with the effects of a lifetime of surveillance on herself and her family.
About the Filmmakers
Assia Boundaoui is an Algerian-American journalist and filmmaker based in Chicago. She has reported for the BBC, NPR, AlJazeera, VICE, CNN and was the recipient of a first place Mark of Excellence Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Assia has worked in an editorial capacity on the production of a number of documentary films, including HBO Documentary Films’ MANHUNT (2013) which was awarded an Emmy. Assia has a Masters degree in journalism from New York University and is fluent in Arabic. THE FEELING OF BEING WATCHED is her directorial debut.
JESSICA DEVANEY is a Brooklyn-based producer and the founder of Multitude Films. She produced the Critic’s Choice nominated SPEED SISTERS (Hot Docs, 2015), which the New York Times called “subtly rebellious and defiantly optimistic” and OUT AGAIN (Outfest 2017) for Refinery29’s Shatterbox Anthology. Forthcoming films include THE FEELING OF BEING WATCHED, THE RASHOMON EFFECT, and ROLL RED ROLL. Jessica’s directorial debut short, LOVE THE SINNER, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2017, screened at over a dozen festivals, and was supported by The Harnisch Foundation, Fork Films, Sundance, The Fledgling Fund, and Chicken & Egg Pictures. Jessica was formerly the Director of Communications at Just Vision where she produced films in various capacities including Sundance and Guggenheim funded NAILA AND THE UPRISING (IDFA, 2017), Peabody Award-winning MY NEIGHBOURHOOD (Tribeca, 2012), the web series HOME FRONT (Aspen ShortsFest 2011), and Ridenhour Documentary Prize and PUMA Impact Award-winning BUDRUS (Berlin, Tribeca, 2010). Jessica has an M.A. in religious studies from Wake Forest University and studied at Georgetown’s Graduate School of Foreign Service in the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. She co-founded the Queer Producers Collective, produced Doc Society’s inaugural Queer Impact Producers Lab, and was Sundance Edit and Story Lab Fellow and a Women at Sundance Fellow.