ANOTHER BODY (SXSW2023) – Review by Leslie Combemale
Sophie Compton and Reuben Hamlyn’s new documentary Another Body is about a young woman’s experience of discovering deepfake pornography of herself online. The girl profiled that you see on the screen is not Taylor Klein. Taylor is the name the college student has chosen to tell her story, and her face is supplied, via “face veil”, by actor Faith Quinn. She was willing to come forward and be part of a documentary Compton and Hamlyn have been researching since 2017, early days in the deepfake phenomenon. Another Body isn’t some story of a rare occurrence, but rather one that shows the terrifying proliferation of a form of gendered online abuse victimizing women of all ages, cultures, and personal histories. Over 90% of deepfake videos, which are predicted to number over 2.6 million by May of 2023, are non-consensual porn of women.
Quite a bit of the film is Taylor talking to the screen, in her own time and her own way, which the directors say was important to allow her a feeling of safety and autonomy. Taylor goes from discovering there are dozens of porn videos using her face on PornHub and XHamster, to working at not only getting them removed, but bringing the perpetrator to justice. It does not go well. In discussions with lawyer and deepfake expert Adam Dodge, she discovers there are no deepfake laws in her state, partly because of the loophole that it is not the victim’s body.
When she speaks to state police, they say they’re “not sure what they can do”, and blame the victim, asking her what she had done to get someone to do this to her. She connects with other women, some of which had been in her circle of friends in engineering school (though the real school was not revealed in the film for obvious reasons), after discovering they too were victimized. She contacts well-known ASMR performer Gibi, who was another target of online abuse by the same source. It is through their combined investigative work that they discover it was “Mike”, a friend from school, who had done it, posting 132 deepfake porn videos that had millions of views.
The fact that these women don’t get justice is an important part of the story. There are no laws protecting women against this kind of abuse. There is a class-action lawsuit against PornHub (a site that endangers and takes advantage of women and sex workers of all kinds around the world) involving over 50 survivors that might cause some systemic change. In the meantime, watching Another Body will awaken viewers to a problem that could affect them or any female loved one they know.
4 out of 5 stars.