August 9, 2010
Everyone said it was best not to know anything about Catfish (2010) before seeing it. So, trusting in at least some of the illusive collective, I refrained from reading the write-up, was sure not to watch the trailer and wouldn’t allow any of my fellow MIFFophiles to speak of its content in my company. Attending its second screening at the festival, I found the film to be highly enjoyable but not so incredibly shocking or perhaps even surprising as I had been led to believe it might be. In lieu of my own post-viewing assessment, be warned, the words that follow do talk about what actually happens in the film.
Documenting filmmaker Ariel Schulman’s brother Nev, a twenty-four year old photographer, and his incredibly funny yet incredibly sad experience of taking a Facebook “friend” to the next level, Catfish is about the fundamental desire we have to connect with other human beings. Now, the idea of finding interesting people via social networking sites and later meeting them in real life isn’t exactly foreign to me (hi to the many friendly twitter folk I’ve met during MIFF), however, Nev’s “connections” happen in a very different – and far more intense – manner than most of us (I at least speak for myself here) are familiar with.
Connecting first with an eight-year-old girl named Abby who is a talented painter, followed by correspondence with her mother Angela and finally “friending” Abby’s beautiful, older, dancer/singer-songwriter sister Megan, Nev has found himself a “Facebook family.” A seemingly great connection with an interesting and artistic family, Nev is happy to call, email and Facebook the entire family and their friends – until Megan records and posts a song that sounds suspiciously similar to a professional post on YouTube – suddenly it becomes clear that at least one of member of the family isn’t all she says she is…
Exposing a sad individual for the pathological liar she is comes across as a fault that resides ultimately with both parties; Nev’s involvement being implicit despite his naiveté to the contrary, “They didn’t fool me, they just told me things I didn’t care to question.” Handling the apparent situation with more than the appropriate level of tact and kindness it warrants, Catfish is a film that hopes to warn the gullible and lecture the weak. Entertaining if inconsequential viewing.