“Catfish” is one of the greatest movies I’ve seen lately.
To begin: I love documentaries. Like many people my age, I started with Michael Moore’s flicks in high school (say what you will about his politics, but the man knows how to make a documentary interesting. His style has been copied – by liberals and conservatives alike – many times over.) Over the years, I’ve enjoyed all the “mainstream” documentaries like “Super Size Me”, “Food, Inc.”, and “Grizzly Man”, as well as docs on favorite bands like The Beatles. I go crazy over nature docs like “Planet Earth” and “Oceans”, and Ken Burns has (of course) always been a favorite (I’m working through his “National Parks” series right now). Some other recent favorites: “Jesus Camp”, “Trouble the Water”, “Inside Job” and “Exit Through The Gift Shop”, although “Exit” may or not be a real documentary, depending on what you believe. I personally believe it’s a hoax. Which leads me to “Catfish”.
“Catfish” is presented as real. Its directors have defended it to the end (WARNING: spoilers), despite questions from other documentary directors and moviegoers at Sundance. But it’s just so bizarre that it can’t possibly be real. If these guys (directors Henry Joost and
Ariel Schulman) staged this whole thing, then they are geniuses, because it feels so natural, even as unexpected plot twists unfold. In fact, Joost and Schulman have so mastered this (faux-?)documentary form that they were brought on to direct “Paranormal Activity 3” (which was probably a major step-down for them. Bad decision.)
Basically (if it is real), Joost and Schulman are New York videographers who picked up their cameras when Schulman’s brother Nev (a photographer) began an online fling with a girl he met on Facebook. The original purpose was just to document the stages of an online relationship, but the experiment quickly devolved into much more than that.