Hot Docs Review: 'The Amina Profile'

The Amina Profile
(Canada, 85 min.)
Dir. Sophie Desraspe
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (Toronto Premiere)
What kind of bait does it take to catch a catfish? The Amina Profile takes an absorbing look at a contemporary con that's spawning out of control in the digital age as director Sophie Desraspe joins subject Sandra Bagaria on a quest to uncover the truth behind Sandra's alleged girlfriend, whom she believe to be a Syrian girl named Amina. Amina, the voice behind the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus, has her virtual lover worried when she disappears and leaves Sandra fearing that Amina's outspoken LGBT voice made her a target of Syria's oppressive regime. The truth is far worse and it leaves far more victims.

This captivating doc traces the virtual web of 'Amina Arraf that snares many intelligent people and reputable news sources (plus The Guardian) into the façade of digital authenticity. Chat messages and mysterious re-enactments draw viewers into the enigma of Amina, and Desraspe smartly deconstructs the credibility of online presences and the validity of social media impressions. The film offers an outstanding cautionary tale of digital privacy and victimization, for Decrease’s smart and thorough profile of Amina's deceit underscores the dangerous appropriation of voice in the digital age as vulnerable groups become pawns for anglers of instant fame. This solid production poses an essential double bill with its Hot Docs counterpart Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi, and it's scarier than anything you saw in Citizenfour.  Amina, with its great story and even better delivery, is a Hot Docs standout.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of ★★★★★)

Please visit www.hotdocs.ca for more info on this year’s festival.

Update: The Amina Profile opens in Toronto at The Bloor on August 21.