Elbert Wyche talks to the Israeli film-makers about their Sundance World Cinema Documentary selection.

Chinese authorities granted surprising access to Israeli film-makers Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia for their World Cinema Documentary selection Web Junkie.

Professor Tao Ran, director of the pioneering rehab facility for ‘internet addicts’ at Daxong Camp at Beijing Military Hospital, opened his doors to the film-makers. 

Medalia and Shlam shot for four months with unfettered access to staff and patients.

Interviews with psychiatrists, nurses and the teenage patients and their parents provide a multi-faceted view of the subject matter and its emotional, psychological and physiological effects.

“I am much younger than Shosh,” says Medalia. “I had the computer when I was young so I’m using the technology much more. We always had this discussion – jokingly – that I should be hospitalised,”

“I think she should be hospitalised,” adds Shlam. 

Beneath the gentle repartee both women share the belief that the internet, in many cases, has led to a breakdown in interpersonal communication. 

“It happens in Israel and America and all over the world,” says Shlam. “The rest of the world is not very serious about it. It’s a universal phenomenon – not only in China.”

“It is a global phenomenon,” says Medalia. “Kids in America and all over the world are playing the exact same games. Those games and those activities that they have online are their friends; they are social games. It becomes the way that they meet people; it becomes their way of communication.”