The Cleaners by Hans Block & Moritz Riesewieck [8/10]

Dull as dishwater, that’s what a documentary about Facebook’s offshore content moderators – folks who view a potentially offensive or unethical image or video every ten seconds or so and make the binary decision of “ignore” or “delete” – should be. But no, filmmakers Hans Block & Moritz Riesewieck have created in The Cleaners a riveting, artful meditation on censorship, ethics, social media, and propaganda. Employing moody music and clever shots of offices and people and faces, working to a careful intelligent scripts, and building in scenes from USA, Philippines and Myanmar, the film scrutinises the societal impact of Facebook and the content moderators themselves. We hear one moderator boast, “I’m passionate about my work,” but gradually we see that a never-ending barrage of beheadings, pornography, hate messages, and nutcases exacts a heavy cost on the moderators. The filmmakers stay out of frame and there are no Michael-Moore-esqe polemics, so you emerge from the cinema with senses and minds abuzz. A triumph of documentary creation, “The Cleaners” is a must-see.

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