Caught in the Net (2020)
Directors: Vit Klusak & Barbora Chalupova
Three adult actresses posing as 12-year-old girls, three fake bedrooms, three cameras, three chat boxes with fake profiles. A social experiment on the sexual abuse of young people online conducted live on camera. An investigative documentary that plays out like a thriller as it probes how the sexual predators who live closer than you might think relentlessly manipulate their young victims. – FNC 2020
Caught in the Net is a Czech documentary about online sexual predators. The documentary starts off by showing how it chooses its three actresses who are all of age but looks younger and can pass as twelve year olds. From that process moving to how the set is created with their three rooms as well as the recording and monitoring of the activity right outside and how they bring some of their own younger pictures and create this fake profile for the three to interact with men who reach out to them. The have a specific code of conduct that was shown right before the online interaction started indicating that they could not initiate anything, in general. Its pretty much an experiment of seeing sexual predator behaviour which over the course of the 10 days of online interactions definitely felt like it truly was a scarring experience, and rightfully so because as much as the images and videos were genitalia was blurred out, its not hard to know what is going on. As it moved to extreme territories with blackmail, paying for their pictures (and more) and eventually, physical meeting at a spot, the documentary covers every phase.
Its no doubt that Caught in the Net is meant to trigger some very negative feelings about these online predators. However, its also a bit of an education for people who don’t realize how these young girls are treated. Other than looking at selected conversations and interactions, they did bring in experts like sexologists, psychiatrists and lawyers which brought in the extra knowledge of what these actions were. These actresses are all of age so they have their own judgement but they also offer their view on the situation and the men that they interact with. It reflects on the effects these interactions could have on future perspectives of themselves, relationships as well as sex. While it is reflective of Czech laws, aside from the details, it does reflect on a knowledge of how illegal any of these actions are from these predators. It also expands on what the nature of pedophilia beyond what the general view of it is. All these things give this documentary a well-rounded sense as they also bring in people who deal with girls who have suffered from these situations like Crisis Line directors and such. Aside from exploring the predator psyche, it also explores why twelve year olds would accept this in the first place.
Caught in the Net is truly a shocking experience. Even if before you start the documentary up, its already expected, watching the online interactions and the different men and how some of them tell their own experiences, its a grueling experience to go through. What is shown is filtered quite a bit especially since the documentary ends explaining that these three girls over 10 days had over 2400 men contact them as well as some of the highlighted men having personal meetings with them. Even for the actresses, it starts feeling very personal especially when faced with men who have turned around and posted their pictures on social media to threaten her as well as having one central men that popped up on all three girls interactions who was known by one of the crew.
Overall, Caught in the Net is a very well-executed and thorough documentary. It was eye-opening and shocking and covered all bases from the young girls (even if it was actresses) to having thought of different outcomes to selecting a few men that seemed the most intriguing of the conversations to focus on while also have a very important moment happen where after all the bad men, there’s always one saving grace. The men are all blurred out and their private parts are all blurred out and yet, it still delivers its content with knowledge on the side of law and psychiatry. At the end, Caught in the Net does make a point to address that online predators don’t only target girls but boys and give a note to parents and also was asked to give in the content to police to revise. It really is killing two birds with one stone.
*Caught in the Net is showing virtually on Festival du Nouveau Cinema until October 31st, 2020*