Coded Bias

A film by Shalini Kantayya

US/UK/China/South Africa | 2020 | 90 minutes | Color | DVD | English | Order No. W201259 |

When MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers that most facial-recognition software misidentifies women and darker-skinned faces, she delves into an investigation of widespread bias in algorithms.


When MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers that most facial-recognition software misidentifies women and darker-skinned faces, she is compelled to investigate further. It turns out that artificial intelligence, which was defined by a homogeneous group of men, is not neutral. What Buolamwini learns about widespread bias in algorithms drives her to push the U.S. government to create the first-ever legislation to counter the far-reaching dangers of bias in a technology that is steadily encroaching on our lives.

Centering on the voices of women leading the charge to ensure our civil rights are protected, Coded Bias asks two key questions: what is the impact of Artificial Intelligence’s increasing role in governing our liberties? And what are the consequences for people stuck in the crosshairs due to their race, color, and gender?


"Thought-provoking. ‘Coded Bias’ serves as both a wake-up call (to invasive practices the public doesn’t yet realize are being implemented) and a call to action."

Peter Debruge Variety

"Terrifying. Coded Bias takes you to the front lines of the digital revolution."

Josh Flanders and Sheir Flanders Chicago Reader

"‘Coded Bias’ is an eye-opening and important film that calls attention to a movement of resistance led by badass female data scientists and grassroots organizations examining an important civil liberties matter."

John Fink The Film Stage

"Digs into how these technologies addict us, extract data from us for profit or control, or inadvertently work against already marginalized people."

Joan E. Solsman CNET

"A chilling plunge into Orwellian reality."

The Hollywood Reporter

"A fascinating study of how even the seemingly impartial world of technology is subject to embedded racism and privilege."

"A sci-fi thriller dressed up a documentary's clothes, CODED BIAS is one of the most fascinating festival films in a lineup already filled with engrossing options."

Milwaukee Film Festival


  • Sundance Film Festival
  • South by Southwest Film Festival
  • SFFilm Festival
  • Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
  • Human Rights Watch Film Festival
  • Full Frame Documentary Festival
  • Provincetown International Film Festival
  • Blackstar Film Festival
  • Dokufest
  • Doc Aviv International Documentary Film Festival


Shalini Kantayya

Filmmaker Shalini Kantayya’s feature documentary Coded Bias premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. She directed the season finale episode for the National Geographic television series Breakthrough, a series profiling trailblazing scientists transforming the future. Executive Produced by Ron Howard, it was broadcast globally in June 2017. Her debut feature film Catching the Sun, about the race for a clean energy future, premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival and was named a New York Times Critics’ Pick. Catching the Sun released globally on Netflix on Earth Day 2016 with Executive Producer Leonardo DiCaprio, and was nominated for the Environmental Media Association Award for Best Documentary.

Kantayya is a TED Fellow, a William J. Fulbright Scholar, and a finalist for the ABC Disney DGA Directing Program. She is an Associate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Kantayya finished in the top 10 out of 12,000 filmmakers on Fox’s On the Lot, a show by Steven Spielberg in search of Hollywood’s next great director. (10/20)


Director: Shalini Kantayya 

Producer: Shalini Kantayya p.g.a. 

Co-Producer: Sabine Hoffman 

Director of Photography: Steve Acevedo 

Editors: Alexandra Gilwit, Zachary Ludescher, Shalini Kantayya 

Visual Effects: Zachary Ludescher, Alexandra Gilwit 

Original Score: Katya Mihailova 


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