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The presence of AI audience members at Sundance sparks a walkout and brings attention to division within the community.

The presence of AI audience members at Sundance sparks a walkout and brings attention to division within the community.

A person in the audience was removed from a Sundance festival event on Tuesday due to a disagreement about artificial intelligence. This caused a group of people to leave, highlighting the divisive impact that this technology has had on the film industry.

AI, which played a significant role in the recent and detrimental Hollywood strikes, has been the subject of extensive discussions at this year’s independent film festival in Utah.

Some movie creators have tested the use of this technology for artistic purposes, but have also warned about its ability to eliminate jobs and limit human creativity and connection.

During a Tuesday showing of “Being (The Digital Griot),” attendees were invited to engage with an AI bot on topics such as racism and the patriarchy by approaching the screen. One audience member was overheard using profanity towards the AI.

“I will not tolerate being verbally abused, and I will not stand for my AI child to be subjected to such treatment,” declared Rashaad Newsome, the creator of the film, in response to a request for a Q&A session after the screening. Newsome refused to participate until appropriate measures were taken.

The festival staff escorted the woman out of the auditorium after she had allegedly shouted, which resulted in mocking reactions from the crowd.

Approximately 25% of the attendees left the auditorium in unity, with some expressing frustration over the suppression of discussion and others arguing that the woman who was ejected was not the true offender.

Sundance officials informed AFP that they are investigating the incident and examining all available evidence to determine the cause, in order to implement appropriate measures.

The occurrence brought attention to long-standing and rapidly increasing conflicts caused by the topic of AI in the movie industry. This was a key focus of this year’s Sundance lineup.


Aside from “Being,” the Sundance independent film festival has also featured “Eternal You” and “Love Machina,” two documentaries exploring the use of artificial intelligence as a means of communication with deceased loved ones.

Another film, “Eno,” explored musician Brian Eno’s career and creative process, using a “generative engine” to mesh together near-infinite different versions of a film from hundreds of possible scenes.

The topic of AI was also explored in fiction through films such as “Love Me,” featuring Kristen Stewart, which depicted a love story between a buoy powered by AI and a satellite in a world after humans.

According to Peter Sillen, the director of “Love Machina,” AI may lead to the creation of films becoming comparable to writing a novel in the near future.

He stated that someone can create a great film while sitting in their room.

Sillen described the concept as both “difficult and intimidating” yet “intriguing,” ultimately stating, “I believe one must be receptive to it.”

Hans Block, the director of “Eternal You,” noted that AI is already heavily utilized in the film industry. In fact, the Adobe software he utilized for editing the movie contains a significant amount of AI and greatly assisted in the filmmaking process.

“It is much easier to create a film in today’s world,” he stated.

According to Block, although AI can be useful as a tool, it is crucial to discuss the potential negative consequences if it remains unregulated.

He expressed his joy in sharing the film at this moment, as it is an opportune time to initiate a conversation about these topics.

‘Human touch’

The potential threat of AI taking over the roles of screenwriters, actors, and other professions was a major concern during the Hollywood strikes last year. Unions demanded assurances from studios that they would not be replaced.

The emergence of AI has caused a strong backlash among numerous filmmakers at Sundance.

Anirban Dutta, the co-director of “Nocturnes,” a documentary that immerses viewers in the study of moths by scientists in the eastern Himalayas, stated that his film is a reaction to the current state of our world, where our natural impulses are becoming automated.

He stated that our movie is a heartfelt invitation for individuals to return to what we are gradually losing, which is human connection.

The unidentified woman who was ejected from the “Being” screening had been expressing a similar viewpoint before chaos ensued.

She stated that while the film is intriguing, all of its information is derived from individuals.