The two filmmakers on their new documentary, Web Junkie, about rehabbing the addicted youth of China.
For those of us who’re not aficionados, the cinematic YouTube trailer for World of Warcraft’s third installment, Cataclysm, announces blood and gore, crude humor, mild language, suggestive themes, use of alcohol, and violence. WoW is classified as a MMRPOG, a massive multiple role player online game, and the 16,998,014 trailer viewers, with a fourteen to one like-to-dislike ratio attest to its worldwide popularity. Still, it’s a video game, and small potatoes, you may think, compared to the devastation endured by civilian populations in the real world, and the concomitant, ubiquitous imagery thereby generated by the carnage, putting us, as the artist Carolee Schneemann recently emailed me, in “a whirligig of grief and outrage.”
But what if your sixteen-year-old son dropped out of school and spent forty days straight at the computer playing WoW? Or lied and spent nights at the Internet café instead of staying with friends? In China, obsessive Internet use by teens has been classified as an addiction and the number one public health threat to teenagers. Desperate parents are tricking or forcing their sons into one of 400 rehab centers run as military boot camps, where if you don’t make your bed in the morning, at night you sleep on the floor.
Two award-winning Israeli documentary filmmakers, Shosh Shlam (Good Garbage and Last Journey Into Silence) and Hilla Medalia (To Die in Jerusalem and Dancing in Jaffa), who have made a dozen films separately, collaborated on the just-released film Web Junkie, which follows three Chinese boys going through a treatment cycle in Daxing, Beijing, the first of these rehab centers, where the filmmakers lived for four months.
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