Catfish – 2010

Directed by Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

Catfish calls itself a documentary, and although this claim is disputed, the story itself is warning enough to those who have used Facebook as a way to create a network of friends that they converse with routinely but don’t really know.  How it happened in this film is unique: a photographer, Nev Schulman, receives a painted version of one of his photographs unsolicited from an 8-year-old girl, named Abby, who lives in Ishpeming, Michigan.  Seemingly an artistic prodigy, Nev starts up a correspondence with the girl and her mother.  The mother, Angela Wessman, is married, and appreciative of Nev’s support of her daughter and her abilities.  They befriend one another on Facebook.  Then he befriends Abby’s older half-sister and half-brother.

This sets up a virtual romance the half-sister, named Megan, and Nev.  Pursuant events escalate to the point where Megan and her brother “create” songs for Nev.  After another couple of songs are sent his way, Nev, his brother and friend (co-directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost) start to find inconsistencies with Megan and Angela’s version of events.  This leads them to investigate further the things they’ve heard and seen from them, and eventually leads them to travel all the way to Michigan to find them.  What they find…

What I can say about this film is that my wife and I were riveted all the way through.  We waited in anticipation for each new revelation.  The characters the brothers and friend, while somewhat oblivious to obvious warnings, move forward as if they have fallen from the turnip truck earlier in that day.  Somewhere in Michigan, there is a moment that seems too coincidental to be happenstance, and from that point, our suspicions are raised, but we willingly continue.

There are no writing credits for this film, and no acting credits.  My feeling is that there probably should be.  The trio insist everything in the film is 100% true, but I am not alone in my doubts.  It’s hard to know how, when or why they decided to pursue this as a movie idea.  The idea is presented in an intelligent manner, giving the rare viewer who may not be aware that there is a new type of fraudulent existence that permeates the world-wide web.  It is worth watching for this reason alone.

There are some real nice touches in the movie, embracing the technology that the brothers and the other subjects inhabit.  When it all comes down to it, there is always a wizard behind the curtain.  It’s just that the wizard is most often, the wizard is something that is closer to a wilting flower: but a flower nonetheless.

(**** out of *****)


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