SXSW Review – ‘My Sextortion Diary’: One Woman’s Fight Back

SXSW Review – ‘My Sextortion Diary’: One Woman’s Fight Back
"My Sextortion Diary" by Patricia Franquesa | Credit: Patricia Franquesa

The threat of public embarrassment is a tremendous motivator, one that can be exploited by nefarious actors to exert control over others. Evolving technology has made the potential for obtaining and distributing personal and potentially damaging information much easier and more dangerous. The playfully-titled My Sextortion Diary takes audiences through the saga of one woman’s experience with having her computer stolen and grappling with the imminent possibility of compromising photographs of her being circulated if she doesn’t pay the ransom the hacker demands.

Pati is the protagonist of this particular story, struggling to believe the situation that has befallen her and quickly spiraled out of control. She gets messages from the hacker explaining what’s happening and what they want in order to keep the photos private, and she seeks solutions and answers on how to deal with this very worrying problem. She wants to work with authorities to figure out what legal options she has to fight back, though it feels like everything is out of her control and her only hope is that she’ll be able to figure out how to stop this before there’s no turning back and what she desperately wants not to be made public is already out in the open.

Director Patricia Franquesa takes an interesting approach to telling her story, inviting audiences to be part of the action that largely plays out via text messages and computer screens. The starkness of the plot’s unfolding is felt in the few words that appear in text chains, initially seeming harmless and like this might not turn into anything and then gradually conveying the weight of its seriousness. Ominous shots of computer folders about to be opened feel like a true throwback to a different age of computer hardware, but it does manage to capture the way in which it’s hard to visually comprehend how digital information theft works.

My Sextortion Diary
Patricia Franquesa. Credit: Max Bloching

This film spotlights one individual case but speaks to a greater trend of revenge pornography that has also worsened with the development of AI and the ability to create deepfakes that don’t actually feature the real people portrayed in a photo or video. Pati is obviously upset about what has befallen her personally, but comes to see the importance of taking a stand against those who tried to take advantage of her so that others in the future won’t so easily fall prey to bad actors. It’s not an easy fight given the unscrupulous nature of those who are morally okay with making money by causing others misery, but putting it out in the open and making others aware of it happening is a crucial first step.

Running just sixty-four minutes, My Sextortion Diary still manages to cover its entire narrative and feel like a complete film. There isn’t much filler or an attempt to highlight this case within a greater phenomenon throughout, and instead that connection is made quickly and efficiently at various points and towards its conclusion. Based on its title, audiences may come in expecting something substantially lighter or more enjoyable. Instead, they’ll be treated to a straightforward telling of one person’s misfortune and how she decided that she wasn’t willing to accept being put into a difficult position without being able to do anything about it. This is a subject that deserves to be explored in greater detail, and this film is a fitting and accessible introduction to the topic that looks at it on a very specific level. Franquesa knows how to construct a compelling film in a concise amount of time, an impressive skill that will surely serve her well in future projects.

Grade: B+

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

My Sextortion Diary makes its world premiere in the Global section at the 2024 SXSW Film and TV Festival.

Comment (0)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here