Rated – PG-13
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
In a world of technology, have we forgotten how to interact with each other? Do people still talk on the phone instead of texting? Do people still use landline phones? I can’t tell you the last time I used a pay phone for an emergency. Have faxes and e-mails been replaced by instant messaging and Facebook wall posts?
With all of the negatives one can think of against the new technology, there are certainly benefits. For one, how else could an 8-year old child prodigy from Michigan contact a New York City photographer so easily?
That’s how this intriguing documentary, Catfish, begins. Abby is an 8-year-old artist that paints extremely well for her age. Nev Schulman is a photographer from New York City and collaborates his creativity with his brother, Ariel, and his friend Henry Joost. Abby contacts Nev through Myspace and asks permission to paint one of his photographs. He is flattered and allows her to. This is the start of an usual friendship between Nev and Abby’s family.
The majority of the documentary focuses on Nev as his brother and friend film his every move. He talks with Abby’s mom, Angela, on the phone and asks about the drawings. They send him shipments of paintings to Nev and he enjoys all the attention. He then begins a cyber-romance with Abby’s 19-year-old sister Megan, whom is a beautiful musician and owns a horse ranch. The two exchange thousands of text messages and hours of phone and online conversations.
SPOILER ALERT BELOW
What follows from Nev’s relationship with the family is truly stunning. Nev is a decent but naive man. He never thinks about things being “too good to be true” when it came to this family. But he soon realizes that everything that he thought was true about this family was being flipped upside down when he searches for proof.
He discovers that Megan, the aspiring musician, has been sending him songs that have been previously recorded by different artists. And when he questions her about it, she was persistent in saying it was an original. He also finds out that the art gallery featuring Abby’s work that Nev was told about has been an abandoned space for years.
In his suspicious yet bold ways, him and his camera-men take a detour on the way home from a trip and pay an unexpected visit to Megan and Angela’s home. What they find out is surprising, a bit disturbing, and quite humbling.
SPOILER ALERT ABOVE
There is hardly a dull moment in this documentary. Nev is a likable enough character to stay invested in and the mystery behind the family he befriends is definitely an up-and-down rollercoaster ride. Also, the film cleverly uses the technology of GPS, Google Maps, YouTube, Facebook, and Gmail to keep the film lively and animated.
Though the film has a few predictable twists and turns, the payoff comes from the last fifteen minutes when Angela becomes the main concentration of the documentary. Here, the raw emotions of a good person are expressed and it’s impossible not to be sympathetic. And finally the anecdote that her husband, Vince, tells that gives the title of the documentary is spoken, and we’re left wondering who are the real catfish in the world. You just have to watch it to see what I’m talking about.