For those of us wrapped up in the encompassing spread of social networking, it is at times easy to forget what goes on behind the screen of those individuals we never meet. Masked through avatars, random photos, and friends built entirely on the basis of those networks, you at times find yourself wondering just how well you know these people with whom you discuss the events of your life. Of course, I promise you can always trust that I will forever be an eighteen year old Hawaiian underwear model with a perfect set of abs, gentile personality, and complete lack of an ego.... what are you looking at?
In essence, Catfish, regardless of whether or not you accept it as real or fake, takes a look at people's use of social network as an escape from the world. With a little creativity, and a few carefully placed clicks, social networking presents humans with a platform to change the very things they dislike about themselves. Are you reserved and in need of an outlet for your frustration? Come on here and be an asshole! It's not like anyone's going to recognize you in your everyday life. Maybe you're dissatisfied with your life and want to be well known. No problem, pick a nice picture of yourself, paint a lovely portrait of your life, and away you go!
There's very seldom any fact checking done in the online realm. Maybe a handful of use will meet in our lifetime, and even then we're not likely to find we all act the same way in real life as we do on here. Enter the tale of Yaniv "Nev" Schulman, a photographer whose online friendship and dealings with Abby, a child painting prodigy, forever change the way he views the Internet.
Disregarding the continuous debate, I found Catfish to be a rather riveting tale of someone getting in too deep online with people they're not familiar with. Having dealt with the online forum for many years, there are quite a few aspects of Catfish I found particularly captivating. Specifically, the way we try and present ourselves online in contrast to our own personality.
Nev is shown as being a trusting and straightforward kind of guy. He accepts what is handed to him because there exists no countering evidence worth investigating. Yet, I feel as if there is a real reason he didn't do much investigating. From the start I believe Nev needed Abby to be exactly who, and what, he was told she was. It was not pertinent to the world he was constructing for her to be anything but one hundred percent real. That is, until he begins to form a viable emotional connection to her and her family.
Once that emotional connection is established, he becomes invested in the world of Abby and her family. They become prominent features of his life, love, and happiness. The inevitable fracturing of that reality becomes the catalyst for much of the stark and solemn tone that paints the second half of Catfish as a tale of much more than one man's journey for the truth.
Directors Ariel Schulman, Nev's brother, and Henry Joost do a wonderful job of capturing the events in a fashion that is as realistic as they come. At times they're shots may seem a tad bit too opportunistic, but they maintain a level of storytelling so engaging it removes the need to question the authenticity of the events at hand.
At times I felt as if the directors were reaching for more than was really there, and I wondered whether we were getting the full picture. Catfish plays out much more like a fictional narrative than a documentary. The primary difference being, everything we are shown fits into place in the sequence of events. There's hardly an important moment where the camera happened to be off, or not available. Though by today's standards, one could make the argument that Catfish plays out about as realistic as reality TV....
Film Credits: Directed By: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman