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Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic (2022)

The internet is growing, and everyone from young children to the elderly have access to the internet and social media. While the internet has the potential to do so much good: connect us to long, lost friends, educate us, and entertain us–it also has the potential to be a dangerous place. The internet is a breeding ground for sexual predators, and sextortion cases are rising at a scary rate. Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic explores the horrifying world of sextortion cases around the world, specifically one of the largest sextortion cases in history–all starting with one young girl known as HM.

Shows like NCIS, Criminal Minds, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit have ruled the world of crime dramas for some time now, and part of the reason for these shows’ success is the taboo nature of what can sometimes be talked about on screen. In particular, it seems that crimes that are sexual in nature are particularly intriguing to viewers–and that’s often become the bread and butter of what those aforementioned shows have produced as a result. Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic, while incredibly relevant and necessary, takes advantage of this growing piece of cinema–and it finds itself alive and well during possibly the perfect time in cinematic history, and it will surely find success as a result.

Now, I fully understand why the criminals at the head of sextortion cases like this are exposed to the world and why the victims remain anonymous, but it somehow feels unfair that the criminals get any sort of recognition while the victims, in many ways, have to suffer in silence. In the early going of Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic it felt as if the film would place the criminals in the spotlight, ultimately overlooking the victims of these heinous crimes. However, as the film moves forward, it becomes clear that Director Maria Peek wants to avoid this, she wants the world to understand the individuals who struggled, sympathize with them, and know what can be done to stop these things from happening again. This is a beautiful transition, because it showcases how brave these individuals are, and that’s an important part of this documentary. This ultimately becomes a touching tribute to all of the victims, and that’s the shining star of the entire documentary.

There are a series of individuals tasked with bringing this documentary to life, and they do this wonderfully. Each and every individual who takes part in explaining the intricate details of the sextortion cases does a spectacular job; they clearly understand everything about these cases, but even better they are able to express these details to viewers so that they can easily understand the process. Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic makes online predators and their process easy to understand, doing far more than just entertaining viewers, but educating them.

Through the accessible words of everyone involved, the intention of Peek to educate viewers, and the ability of everyone involved to reel in viewers, Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic reaches viewers early on, and it refuses to let them go. The content is interesting, the interviews well developed, and the way in which the documentary is filmed is inviting to viewers, making them feel like part of the journey. Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic is full of content that will be difficult for some to swallow, but it’s relevant, and it means the world that so many people are able to speak out about these horrible acts and attempt to make change.

Directed by Maria Peek.

Starring Yuriy Khomyak, Nataliya Khomyak, Wes Nance, Katya, Chauncey Wilder, Steve Anders, Paul Wolpert, Gisele Duval, etc.




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