Lynne aka MondoGhosto, Live for Films contributor and occasional Editor while I am away (check out her blog – it is well worth a read) had a watch of the documentary, Catfish. It get her thinking and here is what she thought.
If the past few years of film watching have taught me anything, the message has definitely been “don’t believe the hype”. Not getting swept away by pre-release mania seems to be working well, and it means I’m never left too disappointed. Often it leads to seeking out lesser known films, those in which you don’t see the whole story before the trailer has even ended. Which is where Catfish comes in. Hell, you find out virtually nothing. Perfect.
An intriguing trailer and a warning to let no one tell you anything before you see it. I could go for that. Sticking with the vague knowledge of it being the documentary that split Sundance, I needed to know no more. Blogs and updates simply terming Catfish a must-see movie, a few “film of the year” references, and finally I reeled it in.
Having netted my catch-of-the-day then, how do I feel? Well, it seems I’m in a bit of a minority because Catfish just didn’t float my boat. In fact, parts of it actually annoyed me. I wish I could tell you more, but – get this – I can’t! And therein lies the genius of the Catfish marketing. You need to see Catfish to find out about it, you need to find others who have seen the film to discuss it. This could be the master stroke of Catfish – its ability to get you talking, sparking debate, feeding rumour. If you want to be in the loop, God damn it you WILL seek this Catfish out. Don’t believe the hype…gah. I’m surprised my cynical little antennae weren’t buzzing like mad over a selling strategy as clever as this one. Don’t read about it, eh? Didn’t realise how eager I was to go fishing without even knowing. Shame it turned out to be a bit of a letdown.
Now I’ve done some more digging into the Catfish mythology, I remain ill at ease. The story throws up questions of manipulation and calculation. Questions of how much the film makers actually knew in advance and when the events actually happened. Are we seeing the real timeline of the Catfish story, or is it all down to clever editing? These worries and the ethics of the whole thing leave me a little cold. If it does indeed turn out to be a fake documentary, then fair play – they’ve pulled a blinder with the casting of Angela, as she was outstandingly believable. If it were all just a cleverly constructed hoax, then I might be more impressed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s storytelling ability and less bewildered by what I can’t help seeing as playing a game with the lives of others.
Suspension of disbelief is one thing when watching a fictional narrative, but being asked to believe the Schulman’s wouldn’t have done some background research on their ‘child prodigy’ is a stretch too far. I think this is my main problem with Catfish. These guys knew they were being duped a hell of a lot sooner than they would like you to think, and used it to their own ends. It is too much for me to be asked to feel sympathy for Nev when he discovers the truth. I have none.
I feel a little grubby after watching Catfish. I would plead with you to see it though, make your own judgement call, and let me know what you make of it.
Do you think it’s real or fake? Documentary film diamond, or floundering disappointment?
Should I believe these guys genuinely didn’t know the only reason they had a film at all was the sad tale awaiting them at the end of the journey or am I siding too much with a put-upon woman living out her broken dreams through the internet?