In March final year, the director Felicity Morris aroused from sleep to approximately 25 WhatsApp messages from convicted conman Shimon Hayut. On The time, Morris was once engaged on her directorial debut – a documentary approximately Hayut (aka, Simon Leviev) and some of the ladies he conned out of loads of heaps of bucks, by means of an complex romance rip-off.
As you’d almost certainly expect from any person whose lies are worthy in their own characteristic duration film on Netflix, Leviev has been protesting his innocence. the frenzy of messages he despatched Morris contained hyperlinks to articles approximately how Leviev have been paid tens of millions of greenbacks to seem in the film, the entire of which was a fabrication. the only fabrication, of course, was the articles, none of which gave the impression to be from a valid news supply.
Morris’s movie, The Tinder Swindler, is now on Netflix. It’s not only approximately Leviev even though, it’s – extra importantly – the tale of Cecilie Fjellhoy, Pernilla Sjoholm, and Ayleen Charlotte, 3 of the women emotionally abused and financially ruined by way of a conman who posed because the easiest boyfriend.
in the film, we see – regularly through the media of text messages and voice notes – how Leviev, who unearths all of his victims on-line, attracts them into an addictive semi-fable global, filled with champagne and flights on personal jets. Even Though little do they realize that each one of that is being funded by a type of courting pyramid scheme, wherein Leviev convinces his girlfriends to max out bank cards and wrack up dizzying money owed.
Morris tells me we now have an inclination to pass judgement on ladies like those for their naivety, and think that they must be “determined”.
“But When I met Cecilie and Pernilla,” she says, “I realised that they’re a similar age to me – sensible, smart women. They’ve were given social lives, and they’re extremely open. Inclined.”
Morris even looks very similar to Leviev’s victims, who are all younger and blonde. inside the making of the documentary, she became just about the women. She got here to feel protecting of them, and answerable for serving to them tell their tales in some way that empowered rather than further exploited them. this is what drew her to the tale as an entire.
“I knew they might be superb protagonists in a film of this sort,” she says, “the place you need to sympathise with the victims on the heart of it.”
In recent years, the real crime genre has boomed. Persistently, an issue with the countless TELEVISION collection, films and podcasts about some of the most sadistic other folks alive has been the framing of feminine victims and survivors. And when – as is often the case – survivors aren’t allowed to shape their own narrative, audience and listeners are much more likely to victim-blame. And this energy dynamic among the documentarian and the topic is one thing Morris took into consideration while making The Tinder Swindler.
Director Felicity Morris, Pernilla Sjoholm, Cecilie Fjellhøy and Bernie Higgins at London screening of The Tinder Swindler Credit: Getty
“I Think that there’s an exceptional steadiness,” she says. “Those women are victims, however they’re also incredibly strong and have to own their own narrative.” Morris’s analysis calls with the 3 women featured in her film had been “intensive”. “It wasn’t with reference to understanding what came about in the tale,” she says, “it was once also approximately working out who these ladies are”.
Ayleen Charlotte, Morris tells me, was reluctant to relive her 18-month dating with Leviev. While the other ladies pass into a good deal of detail in regards to the early degrees with Leviev, and falling in love, Charlotte was once – understandably – less forthcoming. “So we stated, OK,” says Morris, “what we’ll do is we’ll just bring you into the story where you are feeling strong, and while you’re feeling robust.” As a consequence, most of Charlotte’s tale in the film is centred round bringing Leviev down.
In a delightful montage soundtracked by Le Tigre, we discover out how Charlotte – on realising Leviev’s deception – gets cling of piles of his dressmaker garments, and sells them on eBay. Her tale is one among revenge. all of the documentary, in truth, in no small part an act of revenge. or maybe – seeing as Leviev has confronted so few legal repercussions for his serial abuse and deception – a fairer phrase could be “justice”.
“Folks like this operate much better when they’re in the shadows,” says Miller. And what she’s performed, with the cooperation of Leviev’s victims, is “unfold his face throughout a limiteless international platform”. “Now, if you happen to Google Simon Leviev, Cecilie and Pernilla’s story comes up. So he can’t do what he’s done prior to, that’s meet ladies in bars or on Tinder”.
Ayleen Charlotte, one sufferer of the Tinder Swindler Credit: Netflix
In an age the place public shaming has never been more public, Miller and her collaborators desire that they could no less than injury Leviev’s career as a conman. “Indubitably I Believe that the ladies within the movie felt just like the police weren’t doing sufficient for them personally,” says Miller, “And Simon knows that.” Via vacationing from u . s . to u . s ., converting his name, and convincing girls to take out bank cards in their own names, Leviev has – thus far – has served two short prison sentences in Finland and Israel, but, on free up is directly again on Instagram posing as a billionaire and hunting for his next marks.
Con artists like Leviev have recently come to dominate the actual crime genre. From Tortoise Media’s catfishing podcast Candy Bobby, to Netflix’s new docu-collection Puppet Grasp, about faux MI5 agent Robert Hendy-Freegard, there’s something about these stories that has us hooked. I ask Miller what that might be. “I Think the idea of someone pretending to be any person they’re no longer is mentally intriguing,” she says, “Why would any person decide to are living a existence in a reality they created for themselves, and no one else is aware of? Why might you want to surround your self with relationships which are totally faux?”
On The Other Hand, she’s strongly opposed to enjoying up the “mastermind” narrative, through which Leviev is some sort of genius who could’ve made a great stockbroker. “On The finish of the day,” she says, “Simon is a bully”.
‘Why would you wish to have to surround yourself with relationships which might be totally faux?’: a scene from The Tinder Swindler Credit Score: Netflix
But Leviev’s reasons changed into a kind of obsession for Miller, as she and the movie’s manufacturer had “unending discussions” about it over the kitchen table. “who is he? What does he see whilst he seems within the mirror?” she asks. in fact, this is something so that it will be explored further in a derivative podcast The Making of a Swindler, which Morris has been working on for the earlier few months. This, says Morris, shall be a glance at Leviev’s back tale, and can include interviews with many more of his sufferers – each males and ladies.
In The Meantime, Miller is still in contact with the three ladies from the movie. She tells me Pernilla and Cecilie have shaped a close friendship – one that they funny story has been the most pricey they’ve ever had. Cecilie has needed to report for bankruptcy, and Ayleen has misplaced the cash she used to be saving to shop for an rental. What’s extra, all three ladies are preparing for the inevitable online backlash, after the documentary is released.
this is one thing they first faced again when their tale was first told in the Norwegian press. “the web form of wanted to take them down and make contact with them gold diggers, and blame them for what took place to them”, says Miller. This time around despite the fact that, expectantly they’re higher prepared. “Netflix has been offering wonderful classes for them,” says Miller. “you know, how one can take care of negative exposure.
The swindler: Shimon Hayut, aka Simon Leviev, used to be the topic of a world manhunt Credit Score: Shutterstock/Tore Kristiansen
As his victims struggle financially and face a brand new wave of attack from the unsympathetic, Leviev continues to be available in the market dwelling his easiest lifestyles. We see him, on the finish of the film, enjoying up the uber-rich image once again – riding around in Ferraris. Not Too Long Ago, his female friend – an Israeli model – praised him in an interview. Understandably, this has been “a huge blow” for Leviev’s victims. “Their lives are by no means going to be the same again,” says Miller.
How Leviev will respond once the documentary is out is a looming unknown. “Clearly we really feel cautious about what his reaction will be to the film,” says Miller, “We’re all talking at Netflix about what we can have coming our means”. Yet, back when Cecilie and Pernilla informed their tale to Norwegian nationwide newspaper VG, Leviev threatened criminal motion and never adopted up. “We’ll see if he takes the same way with this, and the story being informed on a miles bigger scale,” says Miller.
in the period in-between, Miller is on the lookout for her subsequent big story. “I’ve in point of fact loved making a movie with girls,” she says. In Particular, she’s concerned about (and challenging) the victim blaming that so steadily is available in response to women’s stories. I ask whether she’d make another film a couple of con artist. Despite The Fact That her intuition is to do something completely different, she hasn’t ruled out the speculation. however the proper conman would need to come along.
The Tinder Swindler is on Netflix now