IT’S a tough, harrowing watch that will make you squirm in places, but Caught In The Net is an essential documentary on the scourge and evilness of online child abuse. Yes, it focuses on the Czech Republic, but it could have been shot practically anywhere in the world.
Showing as part of the 25th Made In Prague Festival that runs until December 10, it shows how three brave girls agree to be used as online bait. In the process, they highlight how men of all ages are quite willing to break the law to pursue girls posing as 12 year olds for sexual gratification.
Everything is filmed and overseen by the eagle eyes of Barbora Chalupova and Vit Klusak. Psychologists and lawyers are brought in to observe the proceedings and make pertinent points. Bedrooms are set up for the three girls – Sabina, Anezka and Tereza – and fake profiles are created.
All three, who come through auditioning for their roles, have suffered from online abuse in the past. They come to their bedrooms for 10 days and nights, armed with items from their past: doll houses, sheets of music and even a cute rabbit. They are instructed not to flirt – and to let the men dig their own graves.
Within minutes of their accounts and webcams going live on social media, they are bombarded by men of varying ages (many in their 50s, some even older). Most want the girls to take off bits of their clothing. Many are quite happy to pleasure themselves while they talk to the girls. Cock pictures are two a penny. Thank goodness for pixelation.
‘Ever had sex with a boy? ’asks one. ‘Do you fancy me a bit,’ asks another with a belly that looks like a giant jellyfish. ‘I’m starting to get hard’ he proclaims although I can’t imagine he can see what he is playing with. There’s more and more of the same – wave after wave. Slimy filth.
There are few moments when what you are watching is nothing but disturbing. Occasionally, it gets too much: one vile male sends one of the girls a picture of a woman indulging in a sexual act with a dog. Another threatens blackmail.
The faces of the men are distorted such that their features accentuate their evilness. Their deep set eyes and foul mouths peer from faces on the girls’ computer screens that resemble dehumanised blobs.
Yet Chalupova and Klusak are not prepared to let go. Arming the girls with photo-fit images without their tops on, they lure some of the men to a cafe where microphones and cameras observe all. One man turns up with a woman and a threesome is discussed. ‘I’m a virgin,’ says the girl. ‘It’s no big deal,’ says the woman. Most of the men are after sex and are graphic in their intentions. ‘I’d touch your clitoris,’ says one.
The girls have the last laugh, however, while one of the men (whose job involves working with children) is tracked down to his home. How he tries to defend the indefensible makes for compulsive viewing. How the worm wriggles.
Caught In The Net makes for visceral viewing. There are few light moments to break up the wave of men masturbating and revealing their private parts. ‘I was just polishing something,’ says one individual – the absurdity of it provoking the only laughter of the night among the audience attending the screening at the Gate Picturehouse in London’s Notting Hill (November 29).
One hurrah, however, for the one young man who defies convention by actually ONLY wanting to chat. Tears are shed as this shining angel is revealed.
Over 10 days, the three girls are approached by more than 2,400 men. Twenty one personal meetings take place. Overwhelming proof that online child abuse is thriving – and that more needs to be done to stamp it out.
While Chalupova and Klusak deserve all the plaudits for such a punchy documentary, the real stars are Tereza Teska, Anezka Pithartova and Sabina Diouha. They are marvellous as they deal with these male monsters – and ultimately send some of them packing with disgusting tails dangling between their legs.
It would be nice to think that some of the men that committed crimes in the recording of this documentary have now been banged up. All we know for sure is that the Czech Republic Police have ‘initiated proceedings’.