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4.2 out of 5 stars149
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Catfish is a 'documentary' about Yaniv 'Nev' Schulman, a young, budding New-York photographer. Three months after one of Yaniv's photos is published in the New York Sun he receives a package from Michigan-based, 8-year old, child-prodigy Abby Pierce containing a painting of his photo. Taken aback by the quality of the work and generosity of the artist, he befriends Abby via Facebook in a completely innocent and benign way as they exchange photos and canvas.

Always on the lookout for interesting subject material, Yaniv's brother Ariel decides to document their electronic relationship as it progresses as Yaniv talks to Abby's mom Angela, her half-sister Megan and a few other friends in her life. Yaniv falls for Megan hard after an extended online relationship and is desperate to finally meet her. Alarm bells begin to ring after Megan becomes evasive and certain things she has told him do not tie-up. Yaniv decides to confront Megan by showing up at her house unannounced with extremely interesting results...

Putting the controversy aside about whether Catfish is real or staged, it's an amazing story nonetheless which I won't ruin for you by disclosing the plot. I was captivated for the full 86 minutes as the tale is told through shots of Yaniv's Googlemaps, Facebook messages, text back-and-forths and phone calls. It's edgy and well filmed, despite the majority being shot on handy-cams and I honestly felt involved enough with the story to understand what was going through Yaniv's head as his brother and friend ask him for his POV on what's going down.

There is an unfathomable amount of Apple product placement but this could be due to the artistic nature of the guys to begin with (Apple has always pitched itself as the creative 'right-brainers' computer) and some of the "penny-drops" are just so scene-perfect that even the guys themselves acknowledge they got lucky. But what makes this documentary just so enjoyable is that despite being duped, Yaniv and co. never once become malicious or vengeful, giving the benefit of the doubt up until there just is no other option left and even then they aren't angry, more inquisitive as to what would motivate someone to do this.

Whilst you will probably enjoy all the nuances of the online snapshots and internet usage if it's something you know and love yourself, you can follow what's going on even if you're not a fan of Facebook. What's most important is that this is a fascinating story in it's own right even without being labelled as a "Facebook-saga" and resultantly being tarred with the pop-culture brush. Great cinematography through and through, I recommend this intelligent & allegorical docu-drama to everyone!!
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on 23 January 2015
This absorbing and highly entertaining, little gem of a film is a great achievement for two important reasons.

Firstly, it is convincing proof for any budding filmmaker that, if you have the right idea and the determination, a successful film can be made with minimum resources. While low-budget films like ‘Clerks’ have already proved this in the past, ‘Catfish’ amply demonstrates the possibility that a couple of creative people can now make a feature film just at home with a few video cameras and a laptop, at least as a complete video storyboard. If the raw product is as compelling enough as what ‘Catfish’ has been in its first cut, getting a distributor behind would be much easier than pitching a storyline or a script to a studio and hoping for a miracle. Hundreds, if not thousands, of astonishing videos are now uploaded daily on filmmakers’ video sites like Vimeo by creative young talents who ooze with great potential. I believe that a great, cinema renaissance is just around the corner, when this budding talent gets to realise their true potential, and that the online multimedia revolution, which is shaping up rapidly now, will give these young people the platform that has been denied so far by the studio establishment.

Secondly, ‘Catfish’ is a wake up call to the millions of social media addicts who tend to forget that appearances in the virtual world, that is the web, can be so much more deceptive than those in real life. People lie and can be devious in the real world, but once behind a computer screen, almost everyone feels safe enough to appear as ‘awesome’ as possible, sometimes creating a persona that is an altar ego of a naturally flawed personality. Such deceptions can be just innocent in most cases, but they can lead to abuse and violence in extreme instances. ‘Catfish’ warns us of the dangers lurking in the social networking jungle with Hitchcockian suspense towards the end, although this film is far too human and gloriously redemptive even to be associated with such a negative film genre.

I wholeheartedly recommend ‘Catfish’ to anyone who appreciates youthful creativity in cinema.

BrownPolar
August 2011
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on 25 November 2011
While this film didn't blow me away, it is definitely engaging as it goes along and I didn't think there were any weak spots like unnecessary scenes. The basic premise is 'online friends may not be what they seem' and the film is shown as a hand-held camera documentary of a guy's online relationship with a woman which he then wants to pursue in the real world.

I actually felt my heart rate increase during the film because there is always this undercurrent of tension - it often looks like it's going to turn into one of those films where bright young things are horribly violated by a bunch of inbred backwoodsmen. I didn't know whether it would turn out to be a horror film when I started watching. I'm not going to say whether it did or not - I think part of how you'll feel at the end will be due to how it turns out compared to your expectations.

For me the ending / twist at first seemed like a bit of a "fizzling out", and I think the 2-3 star reviews dismiss it too easily because of that, as being very predictable and simplistic. But, as the 4-5 star reviews have pointed out, and I felt the same - the last 30 minutes are a frank and pithy piece of human drama which strikes a good balance between 'making you stop and think' while not being over-philosophical style-over-substance drivel. Sure, you will see a similar thing in a thousand heart-breaking 'real life story' TV documentaries. But this is a different kind of viewing experience, it's not mawkish tugging an heartstrings, it has the feeling of a well-scripted film.

And this last point is perhaps what slightly damages the whole thing for me. The camera is too steady, the soundtrack too polished, to really believe that this is not a fake documentary. But in the end - sod it, you haven't been conned out of anything, and sometimes not being quite sure of the ending is part of the experience!
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on 4 February 2011
This review contains spoilers, so don't read it if you want to see this movie "fresh".

Being real of not was the first question that likely popped into your head in 1999 when you first saw the small budget movie "Blair Witch Project" (BWP). Later, we all learned how real it was...

So, what about "Catfish". First, it's truly fresh and interesting movie. It's very much like BWP, only taking place in the cyberspace. Catfish has an amateur feel to it, even though the post production has been professional. It all makes it more believable.

But is it real? Is it a clever marketing plot for a painter in Michigan? Is it a stepping stone for three young wannabe movie producers? Only the producers know for sure. I predict it's partly fabricated, mostly real. What's real are the people, including the family in Michigan. The woman actually exists, and she paints for a living. She has two websites selling her works, one of them has been online since 2007. That's way before the events of Catfish start to take place. Also, their house exists, and they really live there.

After all, it doesn't matter if Catfish is 100 percent real. It's intrigueing in itself, and what's best about it is that it COULD be real. There is nothing in it that could not have happened in real life. I mean, people win millions of Dollars in lottery, right? It happens, but it's very rare. All the events of "Catfish" happening to someone in real life (and the video cameras actually filming everything from early on) is very much possible but rare.

What's best about 'Catfish' is how it makes you think about these isues. It makes you think about people in Facebook with 15 fabricated accounts living fabricated lives behind stolen photos of someone they don't even know. It makes you think about people living in lie and denial. Catfish will make you think!
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on 20 April 2011
An interesting exploration into the nature of deception and reality, and how this can be subverted/created via the internet. Are the people we meet this way ever completely real - and are we ever completely truthful ourselves in how we represent ourselves to the rest of the world? The crux being that this is probably more so when people seek approval, or crave love.

It is interesting that the film itself deals with this subject, whilst there does seem to be some debate as to whether it is actually a real documentary, or a fictional film (in the format of a documentary), or not - it certainly follows the form very faithfully. I found it hard to say if it was completely real or not (they're all mighty fine actors if it isn't), and yet it would not be the first film to take the stance of making the audience want to believe the reality it represents.

The Blair WItch Project, Cloverfield, and The Last Exorcism all use the fabric of Documentary film-making to great effect, with powerful dramatic conclusions. Catfish is not that type of film: its conclusion has nothing to do with demons, aliens, serial-killers, or any other kind of vengeful entity... it is wrong that it has been tagged with the word 'shocking' as it may lead some to believe there is something larger at hand, rather than a punchline (or the 'twist') at the end which is very subtle, touching, and gently handled.
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on 20 November 2013
Catfish is a documentary about Yaniv "Nev" Schulman a young New York Photographer. Three months after one of his pictures is published in the New York Sun Nev receives a painting of said photo from 8 year-old child prodigy Abby Pierce. Amazed by the level of detail, quality and generosity of the artist, Nev befriends her via Facebook as they contain to share pictures and canvases.

Eventually Nev begins to communicate with Abby's mum Angela, half-brother Alex, half-sister Megan and a numerous of other people in her life. Nev eventually falls hard for Megan and begin a romantic correspondence. When Megan starts to become evasive and things she's saying doesn't start to add up Nev decides to surprise her by turning up at her house to confront her with surprising results..

I find it hard to believe that somebody could be so naïve. I can understand why there's so much controversy about whether it is real or staged. The way it is told through Nev's Facebook and text messages, Google Maps and through Nev's POV all leads to a thoroughly captivating and compelling watch. Nev and co. despite being hoodwinked took it all surprising well, I can't say I'd have been the same. They were never spiteful but tried to understand why somebody would go to all of that effort and what was motivating them to do it.
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on 8 February 2015
Brilliant and original - very interesting to see the documentary film that started off the whole "Catfish" TV series. If you've never seen the series, I'd recommend the film for sure.

*POSSIBLE SPOILER*

After you've watched the film, go on youtube and search for "Nev meets Megan" and watch "Catfish: Meeting the girl in the pictures." It nicely rounds off the whole story with something that is lacking (I thought) in the original film.
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on 8 December 2011
CATFISH
(dir Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman/86 minutes)

There's been quite a bit of controversy surrounding this alleged `documentary', with many claiming that it was elaborately staged by its stars. It feels authentic and never puts a foot wrong, though personally, I find the events that unfold in the film slightly difficult to accept as an accurate constitution of reality; everything seems just that little bit too coincidental to be true, and I agree with others (including Super Size Me nutcase Morgan Spurlock) who have noted that the film-makers started rolling the tape very early on, before anything suspicious or untoward had occurred. However, who cares? Fact or fiction, truth or false, this is a compelling, engaging, fascinating experience - like all the best documentaries there is a story here that twists, turns and shocks in equal measure. The story begins when professional photographer Nev is sent a painting of one of his photographs by an eight-year-old child prodigy. They subsequently establish a friendship on Facebook, which leads to Nev befriending her entire family and striking up a long distance romance with the singer/songwriter teenage daughter. However, without giving too much away, things aren't what they seem. What follows is certainly memorable...
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on 28 December 2011
It would be a shame if Catfish is remembered solely for the mini-controversy about whether it's a genuine documentary or a piece of fiction cleverly masquerading as fact. Making incessant use of the electronic imagery that has become an integral part of our world (think: Facebook chats, Google Street View, arrows guiding our journeys on a SatNav screen) it shows the growing, Internet-based relationship between Nev Schulman - a young, New York-based photographer - and a family living in Michigan. When a certain aspect of the friendship starts to grow more serious, Schulman discovers that perhaps one's Facebook buddies aren't quite what they claim to be. To my mind, the film's central revelation isn't nearly as surprising as the fact that three young, techno-savvy artists living in one of the most sophisticated cities in the world appear to be bowled over by the realisation that the people using social networking sites aren't all paragons of saintly honesty. However, beyond the question of factual accuracy, beyond the hype and beyond the (slyly?) amateurish camerawork lies a touching story about responding to deception with tenderness and compassion. It's also notable for Schulman's considerable on-screen charisma and a virtuoso montage in the opening minutes.
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Wow! This was an eye opener! An amazing gorilla-style documentary about a young guy who thinks he's met the girl of his dreams online..... it couldn't be further from the truth! I kind of knew the background story a little, as I have seen some of 'Catfish' series on tv.

I initially found the idea of a 'Catfish' (someone pretending to be someone else online), very disturbing and creepy, but actually many times it turns out that the person is suffering in their real life, so they make up a persona for themselves, as a kind of escapism. I find human psychology fascinating!

I find the makers of Catfish to be young men, with a huge amount of compassion and thoughtfulness, beyond their years really. No matter how dramatic or disturbing the story, they always strive to see the good in people, and to give them a fair chance to explain their actions. Gives me hope for the human race! Lol
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