Content Warning: The following article contains references to child sexual abuse.
The Trouble With Being Born has been programmed for two Australian film festivals, three months after the Melbourne International Film Festival removed it from its virtual program following criticisms by psychologists over its implicit depiction of an android child having sex with its human “father”.
It’s set to debut in Australia at the Adelaide Film Festival tomorrow (October 17), and will also screen at Sydney’s Fantastic Film Festival the week after. The Age reports that the film has also recently been picked up by boutique film distributor Potential Films for a broader theatrical and home entertainment release.
The Trouble With Being Born, directed by Austrian Sandra Wollner, is a science fiction film which a short bio says is about “an android who was built by a father as a replicate of his young daughter, who disappeared years earlier”.
The android child is played by a 10-year-old actress, known under the pseudonym of Lena Watson. In the film, she wears a silicone mask and wig to protect her identity.
MIFF pulled the film after The Age, which sought opinions from forensic psychologists Dr Karen Owen and Dr Georgina O’Donnell on the film, supplied the festival with their critical comments.
Dr Owen said the film’s subject matter “normalises sexual interest in children” and would likely be “used… for arousal and masturbatory purposes”.
NME Australia has not seen the film, but understands the sexual nature of the relationship between the father and child is heavily implied, based on a Variety review from its debut at the Berlin Film Festival in February. There, the film prompted walkouts, but won a Special Jury prize.
MIFF’s decision to drop the film was criticised by some academics and film critics, including David Stratton, as censorship. Directors of the Adelaide and Fantastic film festivals told The Age that they understood MIFF’s decision in the context of it being a virtual festival.
“The online film festival is a new model and I can see how the MIFF team didn’t anticipate some of the new quirks,” Fantastic Film Festival artistic director Hudson Sowada said.
“I don’t blame them at all for not taking that risk this year. I think if the event was physical there might have been a different decision.”