Catfish (2010)

Directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman

Last year was a year that helped blur the line between documentary and drama with films like Exit Through the Gift Shop and this film, Catfish. The story here is that there is a photographer, Yaniv Schulman, who shares an office with two filmmakers. When one of his photographs features in the New York Sun, a little girl, Abby, from Michigan send him a painting of it. The catch is that the painting is quite good and kicks off a social networking relationship between the two. Soon the relationship expands to include Abby’s mother, Angela, as well as her older sister Megan and a number of other friends. Again, the relationship at this point is still entirely through facebook.

So the two filmmakers begin to chronicle the strange correspondence between Nev and Abby’s family. Thing begin to become interesting when Nev and Megan start hitting it off via the internet. They build an entire relationship based on facebook and messaging. Soon enough they begin talking on the phone as well, but when Nev and the filmmakers discover that she has lied about recording cover songs, they become suspicious of who this girl is and where the relationship is headed. On their way back from a dance competition in Colorado which they were covering, the three decide to drop in on the family in Michigan and surprise them. That is where the story starts to become strange and freaky.

Now I will say that the film seems real enough to me. I really don’t think anything was staged, though maybe they did more than one take to make it seem better, but it seems to me like everything that happened in the film was real. Now where the line become blurred is in what truth is being told and what lies are being told, but that has nothing to do with the filmmakers, as you will see upon viewing it. All told, the documentary is simply a chronicling of this wild situation that has arisen between Nev and a group of people he has never met. By the nature of the story, the entire second half of the film is fairly tense and had me on the edge of my seat. But there is something be said about how they documented it for that to happen as well.

I think the big reveal was a little bit of a disappointment, but still something that remains immensely intriguing and interesting to me. Without spoiling it for whoever has not seen the film, I will just say that it brings upon the viewers, questions about how relationships work in this day and age and what kind of problems and advantages are presented by technology. There is one person in the film who tells the story of merchants transporting cod fish with catfish, so that the cod would be keep “on their feet” and stay active and fresh. There are people in life that are like that too, who keep you on your feet, always thinking. I really liked this analogy and though the film did a good job of presenting a case for how the world can be a crazy place, but sometimes crazy is just what the doctor ordered.

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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