SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Shaina Ghuraya’s short film Human Helper is about Dr. Rachel Hubbert (Nicole Evans), who researches artificial intelligence. Hubbert’s current project sees her attempting to program a non-ableist “Human Helper.” After showing the Human Helper (a game Alora Kinley) a person in a wheelchair, the researcher eliminates its ability to perceive the wheelchair. But with the help of her Black assistant, Tony (Anthony Golden Jr.), Hubbert realizes that the wheelchair needs to be factored in.
Writer/director Shaina Ghuraya plays around with some genuinely interesting themes and has built a premise based on the not so farfetched concept that because fallible humans are programming artificial intelligence, it could be ableist as well. However, I question if the story goes far enough chiefly because so little information is given about why each experiment with the Human Helper prototype fails and how it is actually rectified.
“… Hubbert’s current project sees her attempting to program a non-ableist ‘Human Helper.’“
Going back to the wheelchair experiment: how was the wheelchair factored in differently than before? Maybe initially, the wheelchair was not recognized. Were there other experiments that failed in similar ways? If so, how did they and this latest one affect Human Helper’s coding? What are Hubbert and Tony learning from both the successes and the failures?
Human Helper is based on an interesting premise, but I just wish that it was more deeply explored – as disability identity (and racial identity) can be all too encompassing sometimes. Even considering all that, the movie is not a total loss, as the acting and directing are solid enough to help overcome the flaws present.
Human Helper screened at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…disability identity (and racial identity) can be all too encompassing sometimes."