Directors: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Melody C. Roscher
Runtime: 86 mins.
Australian release date: 26 January 2011
Raw footage shot on HD and hand held to boot, makes this documentary a bit of a motion sickness event but this pales into insignificance once the story gets going. And what a story Catfish is. Only in New York? Not at all. This is a tale that could crop up anywhere and for the first time it has been documented on film for a commercial release.
Reality television, particularly shows like Big Brother, has whet our appetites for the banalities of life. We find ourselves curious and what’s worse, actually interested in the everyday actions of a bunch of strangers whom we would not normally associate with. Perhaps it is the impersonal relationship we have with these shows that somehow make them ‘safe’ to get involved in.
Likeable characters make this experience even more gratifying and we meet three of them in Catfish. The documentary revolves around a charismatic 26-year-old New York photographer, Nev, and the relationship that develops on-line with a young 8-year-old, Abby, from Michigan. Hold on, I’m not suggesting this is inappropriate at all, but it is a friendship that extends to Abby’s family and results in about 1500 emails sent over a period of about eight months.
What makes Catfish stand out is that the story has many twists and turns and is brilliantly edited by Zac Stuart-Pontier who worked closely with the film’s directors and producers. The ‘performances’ are so watchable and the characters evolve before your eyes in a manner that would make many scriptwriters green with envy - real life can show us things that many of us don’t have access to.
Catfish zips along and at times is quite unnerving. This uneasiness is emphasized by the fact you have no idea what is going to happen and, indeed, what is happening, until the end. In this film, many things are not quite what they seem. It is a journey that throws up all kinds of issues and is a sobering reminder of the intrusive effect that Facebook and the Internet can have on our lives. It is about how people communicate and how a profile on a website can create the way we want the world to view ourselves. Facebook, in particular, has the ability to distort reality or to create relationships than in fact do not exist. The reality is that once that information is out there, it is out there. Be afraid…