The Artifice Girl
I had planned on a trip to the cinema this afternoon until I realised that - today being a bank holiday - no Metro trams were running so I’d not be able to take a trip to the cinema I had in mind.
Happily as I caught up with some of the blogs I follow earlier today I came across a comment making mention of a film that sounded worth watching. Peter Watts’ response - “Watched it. Liked it.” - was enough to pique my interest, so once I’d abandoned any notion of a cinema trip this afternoon I let the miracle of modern broadband bring me my afternoon’s viewing instead.
The Artifice Girl is a rather good debut feature film from director Franklin Rich 1. It’s a thoughtful, talky piece about a young man who is tracking evidence of the activities of online child pornographers in chatrooms that he can pass on to a US equivalent of the Internet Watch Foundation. Our main character finds himself pulled in for questioning under suspicion that he’s using his efforts as a front for gathering a child porn collection of his own.2 Once he’s explained how and why he’s doing what he’s doing, over the next hour or so we watch as over a couple of decades he and his new team pursue his work in this highly sensitive area.
Having seen and enjoyed this film, I’ll definitely be watching for the name of Franklin Rich in future because judging by this tale he’s got a real talent for telling a thoughtful story without falling into any of the obvious traps of handling such sensitive material.
This film came out early in 2023. So far it doesn’t seem to have set the world on fire3 but it’ll be interesting to see where Franklin Rich’s career goes next as word of this unsung gem spreads. All Rich’s iMDB Bio says for now is that “Franklin is currently (2022) developing an ambitious follow-up feature film, with several more projects on the horizon,” so let’s see what shows up.
Who knows, a decade from now perhaps Franklin Rich be helming an adaptation of Ted Chiang’s first novel. Or perhaps he’ll have been brought in by Netflix to direct the fourth sequel in the Rebel Moon franchise.4
One more thing: in the last act of this film we get a brief but welcome appearance from none other than Lance Henriksen, playing an older version of the character the film’s director was playing in the first two acts of this story.
He wrote and edited this, and for the first two acts he also plays one of the main characters. Given how low-budget this film was, he very possibly organised the catering too.↩︎
He isn’t. The story is much more intriguing than that, so I won’t spoil it here.↩︎
It was already on my watchlist, but I’d not made the effort to track down a copy until I saw that comment at Peter Watts’s blog this morning.↩︎
I know which of those options I’d rather see from him, but what do I know? Perhaps Franklin Rich will turn out to be a dab hand at Star-Wars-with-the-serial-numbers-filed-off.↩︎