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(For its 31st edition, the SXSW Film & TV Festival will host nine days of screenings from March 8-16, 2024. Check out Bears Rebecca Fonté’s My Sextortion Diary movie review. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)

According to one technology firm, a laptop is stolen on the average every 53 seconds, and during the course of the life of a laptop it has a one in ten chance that it will be stolen. What do you have on your laptop? Maybe it’s confidential business documents or maybe it’s a connection to the cloud where all the explicit photographs you’ve taken have been uploaded. We give potential criminals access to our every secret, leaving ourselves open not just to embarrassment but blackmail. With VPNs, e-mail aliases, and Bitcoin wallets it is very easy for a hacker to disrupt our life and then disappear into the Internet ether. And with the tremendous loss of trust and security, the victim sometimes takes years to recover.

If that makes you angry, than the true crime documentary My Sextortion Diary may be the film for you. Retelling the events of 2019 when Patricia Franquesa met up with her ex for lunch in a Madrid, only to find later that her laptop had been stolen. A few months later an anonymous e-mail demands $2400 to be sent to a Bitcoin wallet or intimate photos from her laptop will be sent to every one of her contacts. With the blackmailers did not realize, was that they had stolen the laptop from a documentary filmmaker, who quickly turned the entire interaction into some sort of cybercrime dateline episode.

The documentary takes us inside the wake of the crime, with Pati receiving notices from her friends about picture they have received and finding the authorities little to no help. By recording her day-to-day experiences, she invites the viewer into her own helplessness. My initial frustration with her that she hadn’t backed up any of her documents to the cloud (because honestly who saves anything just to their laptop nowadays) quickly became overshadowed by the sheer fear of the number of things my laptop connects to automatically. If someone can hack into your laptop, can they also get into your bank account from your saved passwords? Can they take your blackmail and turn it into blackmail of all of your contacts as well? What kind of details can they learn that they can use against me if I don’t wanna pay?

Stylistically, the film flips back and forth between frantic montages where the screen is dominated by four to five videos shot with the phone, that played together like a multi panel piece of art, and static long shots of Pati alone in her apartment. Despite its 60 minute running time, My Sextortion Diary still plays somewhat in slow motion, in the way the police are never doing enough to solve the crime and Pati feels powerless. In the end, the crime comes to a resolution in a way I couldn’t have predicted and allows the film to feel like a bit of empowerment. If the film allows the filmmaker to restore or at least recapture her own dignity, for the viewer it has to wake us up. This is not something that is happening to people across the world and can’t touch us here. When I stood up after the film, the very first thing I did was look in my bag and make sure I had my laptop.

– Bears Rebecca Fonté (@BearsFonte)

2024 SXSW Film Festival; Patricia Franquesa; My Sextortion Diary
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Bears Rebecca Fonté is a transgender filmmaker, festival programmer, and journalist. She founded Other Worlds Film Festival after two years as the Director of Programming for Austin Film Festival. Her SciFi shorts ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE, PRENATAL, and THE SECRET KEEPER have played 150+ festivals including Fantasia, SciFi London, Boston SciFi, FilmQuest, Austin Film Festival and Dances With Films. Her LGBTQIA Horror short CONVERSION THERAPIST made its world premiere at Inside Out in Toronto and US Premiere at aGLIFF. Her feature thriller iCRIME, which she wrote and directed, was released on DVD, VOD and streaming by Breaking Glass/Vicious Circle Films in 2011. Bears Rebecca also was one of the producers on the Sundance Jury-Award Winning short THE PROCEDURE. In 2021, after five years on the Board of Directors she was made Artistic Director of aGLIFF, the oldest Queer film festival in the Southwest.

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