Viewed – 19 February 2012 Television
Oh the horrors of the internet age. Social Networking has become a major way for many to communicate with friends, family, and to some extent, complete strangers … so much so that relationships can be formed even if you never physically meet up. It’s a strange and dangerous new world, and one that photographer Yaniv Shulman discovered all too well in late 2007 / early 2008 when he became friends with a family and their art prodigy 8-year-old daughter, Abbie.
This absorbing documentary exposes just how easy it is to get drawn into a friendship with someone you have never met, and how what you are told and what you believe can become something else entirely. Directors / documentarians Henry Joost & Ariel Shulman have crafted a shocking and at times disturbing portrait of social networking and the caution we all should have whenever speaking to another person online, especially if you don’t really know them. It’s put together from a wealth of footage shot over the eight month online communication between Yaniv and the mysterious family, and along with some good editing, lots of hand-held camera and good use of Google Earth – this is one documentary I think anyone involved in the likes of Facebook etc should seek out immediately.
I thought some of Yaniv’s actions were kind of reckless, and when you consider how many weirdos and nutters prowl the internet, what he gets up to doesn’t send the best message. Also the final reveal and what has actually been happening, is portrayed with sympathy, when I felt like shouting at the screen. Yaniv handles things well towards the end though, but I felt he was almost as guilty as the other person involved for allowing what transpired to go on for as long as it did. Still this was gripping and thought-provoking, and to some extent, opened my eyes.
Verdict: 4 /5