“Don’t Let Anyone Tell You What It Is”
There’s an obvious reason that social networking phenomena FaceBook is often dubbed “FakeBook” by fans and naysayers alike. The simple truth is that once a person creates a FaceBook profile, he or she can adopt any identity they desire, limited only by imagination, agenda and, unfortunately, any existing mental delusions. Although the consequences are far less dire, a new independent documentary film, enigmatically titled Catfish (in theaters this Friday, September 17th) plays out like a version of The Spanish Prisoner for the online networking age. Combining elements of comedy, mystery, romance and high drama, what makes Catfish so exciting is not just the fact that it’s a true story, but that the story unfolds as the camera is rolling, rather than being recreated from a script. Before you realize what you’ve actually seen, you’re completely engaged. Catfish is what good documentary filmmaking is all about.
Directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, Catfish stars Schulman’s brother Yaniv (Nev) Schulman, a strikingly handsome 24 year-old photographer who, when the film starts, has received a painting of one of his published photographs from an artist named Abby Pierce; an 8 year-old living in Michigan, whom he has never met. Increasingly intrigued by Abby’s artwork, Nev embarks on a big brother/little sister type online friendship with Abby, her Mother Angela and her 19 year-old sister Megan within the vast boundaries of FaceBook’s virtual world. Nev’s brother Ariel (Rel) and his filmmaking partner Henry are so fascinated by Nev’s budding relationship with Abby and her family, but especially the serious crush Nev has developed on the very hot Megan, that they decide to make a documentary about it. As layers of deception and ruse peel away like the skin of an onion, Catfish becomes an intriguing thriller of sorts. It’s all the more exciting to realize that the audience is being let in on the story just as Nev, Rel and Henry were living through everything shown in the film for the first time themselves. It is an extremely satisfying viewing experience.
At its core, Catfish – with its relatively “happy ending” – delivers a serious, cautionary tale about being careful who you trust and how much veracity you place on Internet based relationships: a message that is more timely and applicable now than ever. I can’t imagine that Catfish will not win at least a few independent film awards and jury prizes. I don’t want to give too much away here, but if you’d like to know a bit more going in (I advise against it), Variety has the best online review I’ve read that actually managed to avoid any major spoilers while totally piquing my interest. Read that review at This Link.
Opening September 17th, The Worley Gig Gives Catfish Four ½ Out of Five Stars.