Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Film Review: Catfish (2010)

"Don't talk about fight club". That's the best way to sum up filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost's documentary Catfish. For anything that's said about it will ultimately detract from the experience. This is one of the few films that loses a lot of it's power and effectiveness if you know what happens. So understandably this review will be short on detail on what happens during the film. But the first thing to say is that the way Catfish has been marketed as a reality thriller is very misleading. While some parts will have you on the edge of your seat it isn't from thrills or fear. More disbelief at what you're seeing and anticipation of what will happen next. But that isn't the overall experience with this documentary. Rather, it's a beautiful glimpse into the human condition and how modern technology has been used to give us choices we never had before, for good or ill.
The film begins with the premise that Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman begin to film Ariel's brother Yaniv (or Nev as they call him) when he strikes up an online friendship with a young girl called Abby, who sends him her paintings of his photographs. Through her, Nev also gets to know her older, and attractive, sister Megan and an online/phone relationship begins. But is Megan all she seems?

The boys go looking for answers - but have no idea what they're going to find.
And that's about as much as can be said without giving away the point of the film. Some will say it's obvious and in many ways it is but the experience of discovery is one of the selling points of this film (something the marketing team clearly didn't understand). While the initial set up is a little suspect (who would make a film about their brother becoming facebook friends with a child? Seriously, in this day and age?) the rest of the film rings true and doesn't seem to be a set up. And the second half of the film is far more compelling as truths are revealed and a very real human story emerges from what would otherwise be a shallow and in some ways exploitative film had the makers responded in a different way. Human weakness is in full view here but also compassion and understanding, something that is all too lacking in our modern high tech world. It won't be a film you'll watch more than once but Catfish is truly a worthy and rewarding experience if you enter with no preconceptions.

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