Just because something exists in the digital world, it doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
In the new documentary, Another Body, we are introduced to Taylor, a young college student who discovers that someone has used deepfake technology to use her face in pornographic videos. Traumatized by the actions of a mysterious foe, Taylor sets out to bring her attacker to justice. Without help from the police, Taylor works with other victims of deepfake to find the young person who did this to her in a cautionary tale for the AI generation.
Directed by Sophie Compton and Reuben Hamlyn, Another Body is a bone-chilling tale with a beating heart of justice underneath. In ‘Taylor’, the duo have found a genuinely compelling subject who’s story taps into the heart of our culture. Despite the use of deepfake to change her identity, Taylor’s confidence and strength absolutely shine through. She is a young woman who feels the pain of being taken advantage of yet still exudes power in her efforts to speak out.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Hamlyn & Compton’s film remains the way that they use technology to shelter ‘Taylor’s’ true identity. By using deepfake, they are able to keep Taylor’s anonymity while still allowing her to speak her story in an honest manner. As such, the two filmmakers walk a fine line within Body. On one hand, their use of AI technology demonstrates the power that the medium can have by protecting her identity. However, at the same time, Hamlyn and Compton also tap into the very real concerns about the AI movement that has garnered so much press in recent months
This is a moment where AI has truly come into its own as a pop culture phenomenon yet Body gives us reasonable cause for concern. As the world charges headfirst into the AI generation, one can’t help but believe that Taylor’s story is merely the first of many. Although the film focusses primarily on her journey, we already see others who are suffering the same fate. Whether it’s the face of Youtubers, celebrities or simply just other people in the classroom, Body reveals the ways that our relationship to the ‘image’ have changed in a very short period of time. Suddenly, we live in an age where our world feels a certain sense of entitlement when it comes to online imagery. Whether it’s as innocent as a meme or as damaging as pornography, we now live in a time when we seem to believe that the use of people’s faces on the Internet is fair game.
And, in Another Body, we see the damage that that attitude can have.
In Taylor’s journey, one student’s prank becomes her trauma as she attempts to rectify the fact that her face has been stolen and used without her permission. It’s worth noting that this isn’t a film that challenges the ethics of pornography. Instead, it’s about consent. Suddenly, anyone can access Taylor’s face on the body of another for their own sexual arousal—without her approval. Although no physical contact may take place, Body rightly sees this as a violation of her person.
And yet, her online attacker is protected by law. Although she speaks up for herself with confidence, she consistently finds roadblocks along the way. After all, according to state law, what harm can come from a few dirty videos and photos on the Internet have upon a person’s life? However, suddenly Taylor finds herself the victim of ridicule in the real world. Although the film leaves legal questions about the rights of ownership and privacy, it also reminds us of the damage that can take place when we lose compassion for the souls of the people that can be hurt by internet shenanigans. (And remember, it was not too long ago that we were dealing with the moral implications of cell phone leaks of popular celebrities, simply because people felt they had the right to do so.)
Even though Another Body feels other-worldly, there’s little doubt that it’s grounded in reality. With Taylor’s story, Compton and Hamlyn have tapped into a cultural moment that speaks to more than about technology. The true power of this film is that it advocates for women’s rights regarding their physical bodies, even if it seems like it’s only in the digital realm.
Another Body is available in theatres now.