It is the most successful Czech documentary of all time: “Caught in the Net” shows how adult men interact with children and young adults on the Internet, sending them pornography, blackmailing them and, in some cases, persuading them to meet with them.
The film, which premiered on Swiss television this week and was discussed on the SRF “Club” program, sparked widespread social controversy around the world. However, the style also caused criticism: three actresses, who are of legal age but look too childish on the outside, were used as decoys. They pretended to be 12-year-old girls on the Internet, created fake profiles on social media, and were soon contacted by hundreds of men who communicated with them via Skype.
Even if this method causes criticism – in this case the end justifies the means, says the film’s producer Pavla Klimesova.
Pavla Klimchova participated as a producer in the documentary “Caught in the Net” (Czech: “V síti”). She studied journalism at Charles University in Prague and then completed a master’s degree at the famous FAMU film school. After the worldwide success of the film “Caught in the Net”, Klimešová again worked with its director Barbora Chalupová: last year the film “The Law of Love” was released, which deals with the rights of the LGBTQ community in the Czech Republic.(Photo: Martina Clems)
SRF: How did your team come up with the production of the film in this way? This takes a lot of courage.
Pavla Klimisova: Although I read police reports and scientific literature on the topic of child abuse on the Internet, the first Skype call was very shocking. We thought long and hard about how to show this to people. Because it was clear to us: We can’t expect 12-year-olds to do this. That’s how we came up with the idea for our experiment: that we could work with adult actresses, create identities for them, and recreate their children’s rooms.
It is difficult to watch many scenes in the movie. Can you describe the mood that prevailed on the set?
As a producer, I had the option to leave the room if I had too much for me. Other actresses and crew members couldn’t. It was very difficult, especially in the beginning. The worst part was seeing how quickly guys go from “Hey, how are you?” to send pictures of their penis. And quickly they asked the girls to take nude pictures.
What measures have you taken to protect the actresses? One says she still has nightmares.
The actresses had the opportunity to make some audition calls and then decide if they wanted to be a part of this project. We also gave them treatment during and after production. I still keep in touch with them, three years after the shooting. They are okay. They say they have scars. But they will proudly wear those scars, knowing that this movie helps so many kids.
The making of the film was controversial, particularly the decoy method. Your team must have had many discussions about ethical issues. What arguments were weighed?
We knew our methods were a little harsh – but it’s also one of the best ways to make people aware of this problem. It was clear to us: If we make a movie that sparks a broad social discussion, we can really change something. And we succeeded. Thanks to our film, 52 trials have begun. We have provided all the materials to the police. In all cases, the men were also found to have been in contact with real children as young as 12 or 13 years old. This is how we know we did the right thing.
How has working in this movie changed you as a director?And But also as a person?
The longer we worked on it, the more I realized how important this topic was. Since then, it has been difficult for me to work on something that has no social value, like a commercial. Then it’s hard for me to get excited about it.
From your point of view: What should be done to protect children from these online dangers?
I think it is important to understand that banning children from the Internet or smartphones is not the way to go. You will face it anyway. The most important thing is to talk to them about what they should and should not do online. And that in the event of an accident, they have the confidence to talk about it. We also have to have this discussion as a society, for example in schools, so that children are ready for it. Because these problems will not go away.
The conversation was led by Barbara Luthi.