When I first started writing for this site, I was asked what type of films I wouldn’t cover and horror was at the top of that list. It’s just not my thing as a self-professed scaredy-cat. But, Another Body definitely qualifies, an effective yet terrifying documentary that could, and should, scare every woman out there. Because frankly, nobody is safe from the type of abuse that this film uncovers.
Another Body follows Taylor, a young woman studying engineering with the hopes of earning her masters degree. Taylor is a rule follower, a conscientious student, a person who relies on the truth of numbers through her love of math and science. But one day, a friend sends her a message linking to a video on pornhub. She can’t believe what she’s seeing, her own face staring back at her on someone else’s naked body. Pornographic videos of her have been deepfaked using her likeness. Then she finds more videos claiming to be her, ones that use her real name, identify her school and her hometown. They’re accompanied by a multitude of lewd and sometimes threatening remarks from the men who watch them, which explains all the weird Instagram requests Taylor was getting since her online handles were also published.
Taylor is immediately terrified. She doesn’t know if she is in physical danger. She could be recognized anywhere. The thought consumes her, makes her paranoid and anxious, affecting her mental health. She’s also worried that future employers might find these and think they’re actually her, possibly damaging the career that she has worked so hard to obtain. With police being of embarrassingly little help, she starts on her own investigation, uncovering other victims she knows, and an entire world on the internet that is essentially profiting from these deepfake videos with zero consequence.
While the film largely follows Taylor, that’s not her real name, and not even her real face. She doesn’t feel safe sharing her story as herself, so filmmakers Sophie Compton and Reuben Hamlyn essentially deepfake her footage, casting actors who offer to be the face of Taylor and her classmate ‘Julia,’ another victim. In using this method to protect their identities, they prove just how easy it is to make these deepfake videos. In fact, they show the process right on screen. It’s shocking. But while the images Taylor and Julia discover were created in minutes, they are now on the internet forever. Once pornographic videos of the women are out there, they’re impossible to get back.
While Taylor and Julia manage to actually work out who it is that has been targeting them and the other women they discover, they sadly never get justice. They get to live with the consequences of their perpetrator’s actions while instead he got a polite phone call from the police department basically asking him to stop. While police certainly weren’t helpful in this case, and presumably most others, instead often victim shaming, their hands are also tied. In the United States there are no laws to prevent this. And the deepfake videos don’t fall under non-consensual pornography laws because it’s not the women’s own bodies on the screen.
Compton and Hamlyn have been researching this film since 2017, the early days of deepfake videos. They do not see activism and filmmaking as separate entities here. Instead, much of the intent of Another Body is to point out that this type of digital abuse requires lawmakers to act. To protect the many women who have been targeted. Their sensitive handling of their subjects’ stories has clearly lead to explicit trust from victims who have come forward and helped in presenting testimony to those lawmakers. Taylor in fact, presents her story at the White House, an inspiring reveal in a film full of horrifying twists and turns.
Another Body states that by the year 2024 there will likely be about 5.2 million deepfake videos on the internet, of which 90% are pornographic content of women. This is, quite frankly, terrifying, because it could affect anyone that you know – your doctor, your dog walker, your teacher, your best friend, your sister, your daughter. Victims of intimate image abuse typically stay silent because speaking up often opens them up to more abuse. But, perhaps a film like Another Body gives them courage, or at least provides a safe space to know they aren’t alone. It’s also an urgent call to action. Women already have so many frontiers where we have to fight for our rights. This new technological realm is just another addition to a very long list where a woman’s safety is threatened.
- Rated: 15
- Genre: Documentary
- Release Date: 11/19/2023
- Directed by: Reuben Hamlyn, Sophie Compton
- Produced by: Avery McCann, Elizabeth Woodward, Reuben Hamlyn, Sophie Compton
- Studio: Impact Partners, InMaat Productions, Murmuration Productions, Remarkably Calm Productions, The Harnisch Foundation, Willa