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PRODUCTION Czech Republic / Slovakia

Czech documentary Caught in the Net records a shocking number of online predators


- Vít Klusák is working on a “psychosocial experiment” unveiling the grisly realities of online child abuse

Czech documentary Caught in the Net records a shocking number of online predators
Vít Klusák on the set of Caught in the Net (© Milan Jaroš)

Czech documentarist Vít Klusák (most recently behind The White World According to Daliborek [+see also:
film review
interview: Vít Klusák
film profile
) managed to obtain over 300% of his goal in the ongoing crowdfunding campaign for his latest project Caught in the Net. The campaign will continue for several more days, but the immediate success proved the importance of the topic – sexual predators and child abuse online. Billed as a “psychosocial experiment”, the film by Klusák and co-director Barbora Chalupová features three adult but young-looking actresses pretending to be 12 years old, who are each given fake accounts on domestic chat websites.

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The online encounters unfolded in a controlled environment set up to look like a child’s bedroom, under the supervision of a psychologist, a sexologist, an attorney, and a criminalist specialised in cybercrime. The director revealed that, in the 5 hours after the launch of the fake accounts, 83 men ranging from the ages of 23 to 63 years old had contacted the “jailbait” protagonists, making explicit sexual demands. According to statistics, one in three children has experienced online abuse. The final tally rose to 2458 men of different ages and backgrounds in the 10 days of the experiment. 

The alarming numbers revealed the widespread problem which Caught in the Net aims to expose. According to the filmmakers, one of the main objectives of the film is to launch an awareness campaign so that such encounters — which often lead to abuse, extortion, blackmail and dangerous threats towards minors — could be prevented. The documentary will come in two versions: a shorter, non-explicit one, suitable for children and designed for pedagogic purposes; and a longer cut uncovering the shocking realities of online encounters with predators and their manipulative tactics. The filmmakers noted that they turned the predators’ tactics against them, hence the film’s subtitle “Hunters will be hunted”. “The film addresses the question of power and manipulation from various angles,” stated the board of the Czech Film Fund, adding that the film’s controversial form enables “to self-reflectively examine the ethics of documentary work as well”. 

Klusák revealed that several men met with the protagonists in real life, watched by hidden cameras and by the crew to guarantee the security of the protagonists. Unlike American investigative television series To Catch a Predator, Caught in the Net won’t be outing abusers; their identities will remain anonymised by special effects, blurring their faces while maintaining their eyes and mouths in focus “to preserve the power of obtained footage”. Even though the aim of the experiment-turned-documentary is not to “catch the predators”, the filmmakers explain that some of the acquired material has already been turned to authorities, either with regards to ongoing investigations, or due to dangerous threats made against the protagonists. Over 390 hours of material has been shot and is currently being edited. Caught in the Net should be ready by the autumn, while its domestic theatrical run is scheduled for spring 2020 as Klusák confirmed to Czech Radio.

Caught in the Net is produced by Hypermarket Films and co-produced by Slovakian production outfit Kerekes Film and Czech Television (“the documentary was made within the limits of Czech Television’s ethic codes” announces the crowd-funding page). Czech Film Fund supported the project.

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