The Cleaners

Learn about the Filipino workers who comb through thousands of online images to monitor and delete offensive, pornographic, and incendiary

Cleaners fp
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
November 12, 2018
Headshot hansblock

Hans Block

Hans Block is a German theater director, filmmaker and musician. He studied music (drums) at the University of Arts in Berlin and theater directing at Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts in Berlin. In 2014, Block became resident director and member of the Artistic Direction of the Box at Schauspiel Frankfurt. Productions there included Mysterien – Unberechenbar werden Show more by Knut Hamsun, Aufzeichnungen aus dem Kellerloch by Fjodor Dostojewski and Flankufuroto by Bonn Park. In 2014, he was invited to the festival “Radikal Jung“ at the Münchner Volkstheater with his production Austrian Psycho, which was awarded the Best Production Prize of the festival. His radio drama production Don Don Don Quijote - Attackéee was awarded as best production of Prix Marulić 2015. Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck work collaboratively under the label “Laokoon” named after the legendary Trojan seer who revealed the Trojan Horse as a dangerous fraud. In their works Riesewieck and Block aim to reveal the Trojan horses of our time. Their projects which they develop in various media forms start with investigations and end up as striking, complex narrations. Show less

Moritzriesewieck hedshot

Moritz Riesewieck

Moritz Riesewieck is a German essay author, scriptwriter, theater- and film director. He studied theater directing at Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts in Berlin. Before he studied some semesters of Economics as a fellow of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation and worked as assistant director at Schaubuehne am Lehniner Platz in Berlin. In 2014 Show more he staged the piece “Woyzeck by Georg Buechner in Mexico City. His Spanish / German graduation production was invited to renowned Heidelberg Play Market. In 2016 Moritz Riesewieck was granted the state of Berlin’s Elsa Neumann Scholarship for his innovative theater works which were shown at festivals in Berlin and Hamburg and most recently at Theater Dortmund. In the same year Riesewieck presented a lecture performance about digital cleansing at re:publica Berlin and at Berliner Theatertreffen. His essay Digital Dirt Work was published by German publishing house dtv in September 2017. FILMMAKER BIOS Show less

We fund untold stories for public media.

Learn more about funding opportunities with ITVS.

The Film

Enter a hidden third world shadow industry of digital cleaning, where the Internet rids itself of what it doesn‘t like. Here we meet five “digital scavengers” among thousands of people out-sourced from Silicon Valley whose job is to delete “inappropriate” content of the net. In a parallel struggle, we meet people around the globe whose lives are dramatically affected by online censorship. A typical “cleaner” must observe and rate thousands of often deeply disturbing images and videos every day, leading to lasting psychological impacts. Yet underneath their work lie profound questions around what makes an image art or propaganda and what defines journalism. Where exactly is the point of balance for social media to be neither an un-legislated space nor a forum rife with censorship? The Cleaners struggles to come to terms with this new and disconcerting paradigm. Evolving from a shared social vision of a global village to a web of fake news and radicalization, the film charts the rise and fall of social media’s utopian ideology.