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Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are young New York media types who document their lives as a matter of course. So when photographer Yaniv, Ariel’s brother with whom they share office space, receives an email from Abby, an 8-year-old Michigan girl, seeking permission to paint one of his photographs, their recordings suddenly get a lot more interesting. As abby’s paintings start to arrive thick and fast, Yaniv strikes up a Facebook and phone relationship not just with Abby but also her mom and her older sister Megan. Soon Yaniv and Megan are flirting like mad but a troubling discovery arouses his suspicions and he sets off to Michigan - with the filmmakers in tow.
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
The trailer begins in a rom-com way suggesting a whimsical relationship that blossoms on Facebook. Then Nev, the main character, goes to see his on-line love: the music turns foreboding, he turns up at an isolated farmhouse; someone says 'I'm scared'. Then a series of quotes from reviews flash across the screen: 'The final minutes of this film will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride that you won't be able to shake for days', 'A bizarre and unpredictable mystery', 'A shattering conclusion', 'The best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never directed' etc.
The implication is that this is some kind of HORROR FILM, Wolf Creek for the Facebook generation, a warning about trusting people on the internet. Although the latter is true this is about as far from a horror movie as you can imagine.
Of course you should never trust trailers and the 12 certificate probably gives it away too - but I felt the trailer totally mis-sold the film. Which is a shame because it's actually quite a smart movie, poignant in places with some interesting things to say about identity and how the anonymity of the internet allows people to hide and/or project idealisations of themselves.
So watch and prepared to be provoked into thinking about where the digital society is going... just don't expect to be scared or for things to end in a gorefest!