A sci-fi film out of Germany has sparked controversy and severe backlash for depicting a relationship between an adult man and a 10-year-old robot designed to resemble his daughter. The outrage has prompted walkouts at several of the film’s screenings.
“Titled ‘Trouble With Being Born,’ the film is programmed as part of Berlinale 2020, the annual film festival held in Berlin, Germany,” reports the Independent. “In the film, the child-like android, played by Lena Watson, 10, is seen calling her owner ‘Daddy.'”
Though the movie features no graphic depiction of sex between the man and the girl sexbot, the implications are clear.
“The android role was originally written for a 20-year-old actor, but after removing some of the more explicit elements, director Sandra Wollner decided to cast a child,” continued the report.
People on Twitter have objected to the film as “pedophile propaganda” while certain outlets like The Hollywood Reporter (THR) have hailed it for its artistic merits, even going so far to call it a “hidden gem”. Wolner told the outlet she meant the film to be an antithesis to “Pinnochio” or Steven Spielberg’s “AI.”
“What I found interesting about it is that we have an android whose only desires are the ones you program it to have,” she said. “I found it fascinating to show the perspective of the world through this machine that does not judge and does not care, and doesn’t need the meanings that we do.”
Regarding the nude scenes featuring the 10-year-old robot, Wolner says they were created using CGI and permission from the young actress’s family. More from THR:
Looking for Elli was — perhaps obviously — slightly removed from your average casting call, the filmmakers not merely wanting someone who suited the part but also a child, Wollner says, that “came from a healthy environment,” with the sort of open-minded family who would understand the story they wanted to tell and also allow them to do it. In the end, she says it was “pure luck” in finding Watson, whose parents were known by a friend of a friend.
“We had really honest talks with the family, who were there during the shoot. It was very open, very transparent. And of course we talked to [Watson] about the film in a very child-appropriate way.”
Understandably, the few nude scenes were all created via VFX with Watson in a bikini and covered in dots (“Of course we didn’t have a minor running around naked,” says Wollner). The young actress also wore a silicone mask and wig, which served a dual purpose, not only hiding her real identity but also helping her resemble another actress who appears later in the film.
Though currently in its infancy, the child sexbot trade has been gaining steam in recent years, with more and more people buying merchandise from overseas markets. Republican Congressman Dan Donovan of New York, a former prosecutor, has argued laws must be made against child sexbots before a wave sweeps the U.S.
“When I saw articles on the issues of child sex dolls abroad, I knew I had to act immediately to stop the proliferation of them within the United States,” Donovan said in 2018
To make their possession and import illegal, Donovan proposed the Curbing Realistic Exploitative Electronic Pedophilic Robots (CREEPER) Act.
An academic study of the subject, “Child Sex Dolls and Robots: More Than Just an Uncanny Valley” by Drs. Marie-Helen Maras and Lauren Shapiro, makes the case that child sexbots reinforce pedophile behavior.
“A known creator of such dolls is Shin Takagi, a self-proclaimed pedophile, who founded a company that sells them (Trottla) in Japan, supposedly as an ‘alternative’ to actual offending,” the authors noted. “Even if real children are not involved in the production of child sex dolls and child sex robots, they could be harmed thereafter by users of these objects.”