NZ IFF 2020 Day 7

Back to three in a day, and all good ones, too.

Coded Bias

An examination of the problems associated with machine learning and what’s being marketed as AI: how a lack of consideration and narrow perspectives of those building and deploying the technologies are amplifying existing social problems. Scaffolded around the stories of both academics and ordinary people, it’s a really well put together documentary: accessible, clear, and forceful. If you’re familiar with the field and its critics (and the makers have managed to get more than a few big names in this area) you may not learn a great deal that’s new to you, but I guarantee it will roll together the fragments you already understood into an interesting and cohesive whole.

I was particularly pleased to see an emphasis on not just the technical issues, but the lack of legal frameworks to oversee how these tools are managed; all too many of the conversations I’ve been exposed to focus on technical evasion, which really only supports a small subset of the population in the short term, and is a losing proposition in the long term.

Le voyage du prince / The Prince’s Journey

A family-friendly animated French film that concerns a prince from a foreign land, washed ashore as his army drowns. Discovered by a group of scientists, he becomes a fast friend of their son, Tom, as well the centrepiece of the web of social and academic politics within the city he has been taken to: their wonderful technology astounds him, but they are a people (well, anthropomorphised monkeys) living in a society which has literally closed its gates to the outside world, denying other lands and peoples exist, while waging a losing war against the encroachment of the surrounding jungle on the city.

Tom and the Prince explore the city together, the Prince learning about its quirks, until the Prince tires of his captivity and resolves to break free; in the process, we learn about Tom’s true origins and more about the mileu of story.

Enjoyable, with plenty of deeper themes for an adult or teen viewer to think about, this one was a good watch for Rosa, Ada, and I.

Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)

The trailer made this Aussie film look hilarious, and it it often is. But it’s also a surprisingly moving and deep film: Ellie, a high school student who isn’t out, but knows she prefers other girls, agonises over who she’ll invite to the formal (the movie pokes fun at Aussie kids adopting Americanisms like Prom). She’s crushing on Abbie, but isn’t really sure if she’s a lesbian; then her dead aunt appears as her fairy godmother/ghost to help out.

Auntie’s help is, shall we say, a mixed blessing. Immediate conflict arises between Ellie - who is convinced that being out is so different to when her aunt was a teen that the advice is worthless - struggles like, well, a 1718 year old trying to ask someone else for the first time. Abbie is forthright and disinterested in being stuffed around. And for reasons Ellie can’t understand, her mum immediately goes apeshit at her daughter being a lesbian, despite her own sister, and her best friend, being such. Using a fictionalised version of Fred Nile’s 1989 anti-gay march on Oxford Street as the scaffolding for a family secret, the film deftly uses the scaffolding of a teen comedy to explore family tragedy, the tension between the very different experiences for lesbians in the past and present, and fmailies of blood and choice. It all comes to a happy end, and is a wonderfully executed, moving film.

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