Directors: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost
By Clare Jamie Burnett
Catfish is a reality thriller. Along with directors Joost and Schulman themselves, the film centres around Schulman’s brother, Nev, a photographer, and his online friendship with Abby, an eight year old artist who paints one of his photographs. As their relationship develops over Facebook, so does Nevs’ with the rest of Abby’s family, including her mother Angela and nineteen year old sister Megan. I say its a thriller, because although the events in the film seem average in the cold light of day, this film gets intense and pretty emotional. It seems a bit unfortunate however that the films big selling point, the twist, can’t be discussed without a spoiler alert, without it, audiences would assume this film is merely a few American blokes messing about with a video camera.
At some points, the boys, Schulman, Joost and Nev come across as smug, self-involved college boys, and certain scenes feel a little orchestrated, but these are small points. Truth and fiction seem interchangeable in this documentary. You empathise with the openness and honest emotion of Nev, who the audience sees at his worst and best moments, so much so that is doesn’t matter if this film is all real footage or not. On the other hand, his cyber relationship with Megan is (sadly) a pretty accurate depiction of online relationships, largely infatuation and based in fantasy on both sides.
After films like The Social Network that glorify the role of facebook and the technology of 21st century communications, this technocentric film comes with a warning; it is naïve to believe everything you see on the internet. Obvious maybe, but it is suggested at certain moments (most notably when the boys arrive at the Michigan farm) that there is more sinister potential behind the safety of the computer screen.
Catfish is made with the technical ease that comes from a generation of texting, emailing and social networks. More accessible perhaps to a contemporary generation, where 60% of people’s relationships seem to be established and maintained in cyberspace, but betrayal, infatuation, disappointment and a wanting to be loved are all universal themes that anyone can identify with.
Whether fact or fiction, this is a real portrayal of loneliness and deception in the 21st century, where the ease of technological communication makes it easy for you to be anyone you want to be. Though the final forty minutes are not entirely unpredictable, they are an emotional ride that will leave you thinking about it for days after. This documentary is this generations catfish, keeping us on our toes so we don’t turn into fat braindead codfish – watch this film and you’ll understand.
By Clare Jamie Burnett
The trailer to Catfish.