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Catfish Reviews

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Mark W

Super Reviewer

August 3, 2011
The social networking zeitgeist is certainly upon us. It has shaped a generation in their reliance on smartphones and the internet and contributed to a new global means of communication. It has brought us closer but sometimes a bit too close. It has opened up new dangers and has shaped us into voyeurs. This documentary is proof enough in showing this. It also shows how easily people can be manipulated.
Filmmakers Rel Schulman and Henry Joost find themselves in the midst of a film project, tracing an online romance between Rel's brother Nev and a female artist on Facebook. Everything doesn't add up though as the women's real identity becomes in question and her stories don't seem to make sense. Is she really who she says she is?...
After a slow beginning, we are soon informed of where this documented drama is heading and the path it takes becomes dark and intriguing. Prime candidate for mockery, Nev Schulman, is a good sport. He very rarely shy's away from what is ultimately a major piss take of his trust in people. But what it also does, is remind ourselves (or those who use social networking sites) that everything is not as it seems when interacting with faceless names. For those who haven't seen it, I won't give too much away, but it shows the frailties in Internet use, as well as, the frailties in ourselves. The revelation of the strange events is quite awakening but is everything we told even true in itself? Some people took this documentary quite literally. I, however, had to wonder whether it was a double cross. I believed it to a point but there were so many chance happenings that were caught conveniently on camera that it couldn't all have been purely documented.
Questions remain as too how authentic the film actually is but as a social commentary it's message still stands. Despite some inconstancies it remains cleverly constructed.
Sophie B

Super Reviewer

April 11, 2012
I'm not really sure what to say about this. Such an amazing documentary/film. I had no idea that it was actually real (and I'm still not sure if it even is or not, it all seems too convenient). There is so much that could be said about this film and I'm sure everyone will have a different opinion. It just goes to show that there is some pretty crazy people out there and it's difficult to trust those you meet online. However I don't feel like it answers many of the questions that were brought up about why this woman felt compelled to do what she did and there were many things missed out. Why didn't they show Angela's expression when she first opened the door? That was pretty much the money shot but they missed out. I guess all I can say is watch it and form your own opinion, I don't even know what mine is yet.
Jason O

Super Reviewer

February 9, 2012
Not a particularly great movie in any way, but being one who's been scammed on dating websites and that has had some on Facebook try to do the same (although it's always been by foreigners, no one domestically), I can relate to an extent to this film. But...I never actually traveled far to visit; watching the guy in this movie do that and try to dig up the bare bones truth is what makes this interesting starting at about halfway through the film. Starts off very slowly.

Super Reviewer

February 1, 2012
Yaniv Schulman: Set it up, organize a time with me, put together some materials, emails, we'll get the Facebook conversations printed out and we'll really talk about it. 

"Don't let anyone tell you what it is."

Totally didn't expect this movie to turn out how it did. I guess I should have listened to the tagline. Before watching it I would have expected a thriller, but afterwards it was anything but a thriller. Sure there were moments of suspense when Yaniv was first finding stuff out about the family, but that was only there because I was expecting a different outcome.

Catfish happens to be a creative and pretty original type of film. It's a fake documentary that seems truly real. I loved the setup and how the filmmakers used all the growing social media elements to make a compelling story. I there was one thing about the movie that I wasn't completely thrilled with, that would be the last twenty minutes. The first hour was so engrossing and leads us to believe something crazy is going to happen. So when what I thought would happen doesn't, I'll admit I sort of lost interest. Plus the way Yaniv acts towards Angela in the end is sort of unbelievable. If it were me, I'd probably bitch slap her.

We follow the online relationship of Yaniv with a family in Michigan. He first comes in contact with them when I photo he took is made into a painting by an 8 year old girl, Abbey, and is sent to him. She starts doing more and more of his photos and soon he is talking on the phone with her mother. Then he begins to strike up a long distance relationship with Abbey's sister. From there I won't say anything more, as it is important not to know too much. 

Catfish is one of the more interesting is it real documentaries I have seen. There's been some good ones out there: Man Bites Dog, The Blair Witch Project, Christopher Guest's films, and recently the polarizing I'm Still Here. What's more interesting about this one than any of the others, except maybe I'm Still Here(at first), is that this seems believable. It seems real. In the social media age we live in, stuff like this is sure to happen. 

I wasn't sure how much I would like this even while I was watching it. But after finishing it and thinking about it a little, I'm blown away by the first hour of it. If the last twenty minutes was more believable, this probably would have been my favorite is it real doc ever. As it is, it is still one of the better ones I have seen. Real or fake, it is interesting either way.
Luke B

Super Reviewer

January 22, 2012
Real or not, this is an incredible film watching experience. I decided to check this out after being relatively impressed with Paranormal Activity 3. The film starts as a documentary about the friendship between a photographer, Nev, in his 20s becoming friends with an 8 year old painter, Abby, that does recreations of his pictures. As their friendship starts to blossom, he gets to know Abby's whole family over Facebook. Most importantly, Megan, her older sister. A relationship of messages, phone calls etc. blossoms for 8 months. However, one night Nev discovers something that will change their entire relationship. I'll leave the synopsis there, as I knew nothing about this film so every second had me gripped and was shocking. The film seems innocent at first, but soon ominous tones start to set in. It really does feel like some kind of horror movie, and the more that is revealed the more I was gobsmacked. As the fear levels rise, it then turns into something completely different. Schulman and Joost certainly have an ability to create tension, and get some emotional resonance too. Out of a documentary, that's pretty impressive. I could not have predicted where this was going at any time.

Super Reviewer

October 30, 2011
Catfish asks the question "what is Reality?", but does it by showing you allegedly "real" events instead of taking you on a Lynchian journey of self perception. No, what's scary here is that yes, this is supposedly a documentary, (although it has been argued that the filmmakers made this all up, and then filmed it as a quasi doc). Either way, the story itself, real, or imagination, makes you think - for indeed it is entirely plausible.

I'm not going to go into the story line here, as it is best if you explore that for yourself and then make your own conclusions over its validity. The concept itself is a good one; two photographers decide to make a film journal concerning a fellow photographers' budding cyber relationship with a family from Michigan. This gives the film some cred right off the bat, and since we've all seen so many "reality" shows and other docs where the camera just happens to always be at the right place at the right time (think American Teen), this film, with its hand held cam and occasionally tinny soundtrack, seems genuine enough.

The filmmakers decided early on to use over pixilated shots, which creates a nice effect and hints at the message "we're all voyeurs in cyberspace", which slots nicely into the warning about believing what is shown to you; especially on the net.

The film's pacing is brisk enough, but still allows you to follow the thread. There is a bit of mystery and drama which becomes apparent as things start becoming suspect - and here the buildup is nice, but once the deception becomes obvious, the payoff is rather flat, saved only by a heartfelt confession and an explanation of what a "catfish" really is.

In the end, there are enough "coincidences" to make you wonder both about the "catfish" and the film itself - its all manipulation of one form or another, and "real" is merely a framework in which belief is either accepted or suspended.
Josh M

Super Reviewer

November 2, 2011
Catfish is a one of a kind pseudo documentary attempting to tear the mask off the the way people falsely represent themselves in the world of social networking. It never completely rings true, but is utterly addictive viewing nonetheless.

The film is a road trip to Michigan shot on handy cam by three young and hip New York media guys. The trip's goal is for the filmmaker Nev to make a surprise visit to a family he has befriended in cyberspace and a budding romance with the daughter.

Here are the aspects that are flat out unbelievable:

1. The exploitative use the filmmakers have made of a sad middle aged woman is disturbing and suspect. It is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the woman plays along and seems comfortable with the film that exposes her as desperate and pathetic. Perhaps she is not perceptive enough to see it that way, or is so narcissistic that she doesn't care.

2. The staggering naivete shown by Nev the lead character strains all credulity. He is a 'with it' New York hipster, and surely the multiple red flags about the deception of his correspondent would not have escaped his notice.

3. Further, the convenience of the filmmakers being present and rolling for every plot point and twist and turn in the story are not credible either. Why would they even go to the trouble of filming this apparently lame Facebook romance story unless they knew the mystery woman was not who she said she was in advance and they are just setting her up? I don't buy the innocent Pollyanna act of the New York hipster boys, especially that of lead character Nev.

That said, this film hooked me in and made me stay till the end. On purpose: It has a lot to say about how we live in this age of text messaging and Facebook. Unintentionally, it has a lot to show about how audiences are manipulated by films and docs in the Facebook age. Twenty years from now this film will be an embarrassing retro curiosity and a will be a seminal film of the early years of the social networking era. Catch it while it's still relevant.
Eric A

Super Reviewer

October 26, 2011
It would be hard to categorize this film since it is very surprising. I did not know too much about the film before viewing, so I was completely surprised about the turns that the film took. I got feelings where I thought it was going to turn into a horror film (when the sneak up on the house), then there are heart felt moments when he finally gets to the house (won't say what happens). But the documentary/film keeps you on edge and guessing, pretty cool.
Joseph B

Super Reviewer

September 28, 2010
Interesting concept.
Jan Marc M

Super Reviewer

September 9, 2011
A documentary questioned of its authenticity, Catfish captures the evolution of social interaction and the change in dynamics of social relationships as mediated by technology, particularly the online social media. Construction is most impressive. Sympathizing.

Super Reviewer

February 1, 2011
Without a doubt, the very best documentary I've ever seen. Full review later.
Cynthia S

Super Reviewer

April 22, 2011
Mesmerizing. I realize that this is a "mock" documentary, but it was so well done that it drew me in. Everything that took place could happen, does happen, and makes me even more leery to completely trust anything that I see on the internet.
Thomas J

Super Reviewer

June 28, 2011
I was so surprised by this movie. A documentary with a big twist. It is big time voyeurism to watch this story unfold, but still like a train crash ... you can't look away!
Jason S

Super Reviewer

June 20, 2011
A doc about the perils of using social media. It's an interesting event caught on camera as three friends set out to find the truth behind someone that has befriended them over facebook.
It's a well made doc that is pretty raw in a way but also polished at the same time. I can't really go into much detail without spoiling the discoveries they make but I can say that I like the way they deal with the discoveries. They handle the whole thing in a very respectful manner that is rare these days.
Ross C

Super Reviewer

March 6, 2011
An original reality documentary about the evolution of a young New York photographer's serendipitous Internet relationship. It's an intriguing story and does a good job of creating a time capsule of the current era we live in.
Clintus M.
Clintus M.

Super Reviewer

May 18, 2011
Catfish the film is named for the stimulus that keeps things interesting. (I'm not sure that catfish really qualify, but that's another story) Its not a suspense picture, although there is some, and its not a typical docu-drama either. Its a documentary, although I wasn't sure it was all true and these weren't actors until the end. Confused yet? Can you take this film at face value? Possibly not, but the issues remain vivid nonetheless.

The story begins as sweet, then develops into something strange, weird, and perplexing. What begins as appreciation between a photographer and an 8yr old "artist" progresses into very sexual messages between Nev, the photographer and Megan, the 19 yr old sister of the artist. It climaxes in a face to face meeting or confrontation between Nev, the 2 filmakers, and Abby(the artist's) Michigan family. As usual, online relationships do not translate into genuine personal relationships. Someone has been lying.

I won't reveal any details; since you've read this far, you owe it to yourself to discover this on your own. The whole thing seems too bizarre to be true, yet I have no doubt these things go on every day. I cannot comprehend how people live these lies; maybe someone with a psychology background could explain it to me. Who is being manipulated, Nev? the audience? I feel a profound sadness.
Edward B

Super Reviewer

April 22, 2011
This little independent documentary is almost like a companion piece to David Fincher's masterpiece, The Social Network. Both films reflect on what it is about Facebook that has attracted just about everyone to it, but they each reveal in their own way how social media has completely changed how people interact with one another. Catfish exposes the more disturbing side to finding a connection to a person through this social network, but it also tugs at your heart, especially in the final moments. The villain made me so uneasy right up to the climax and but soon enough, I began to really sympathize with this person. And I didn't feel manipulated in any way by the story.
The documented account is of a young photographer's new online crush from the attraction phase to the crazy stalker phase. It takes so many twists and turns that you will question whether this story could actually happen. Maybe it can and maybe it can't. The film is important because it asks provocative questions about how we present ourselves on Facebook, and to what effect are we trying to achieve with this edited presentation. While the story focuses on a more extreme case, there is nothing about these characters - both the protagonist and even more so the antagonist - that doesn't reflect something about ourselves and our attraction to social media.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

May 5, 2011
I'm not sure I'd call it a documentary as such but catfish does live up to its hype. I'd like to think it wasn't a set up but I'm not so sure but aside from that, the excruciating anticipation is very real and makes for uncomfortable but exciting viewing. It's quite a sad story really but even if it was a set up, they achieved something that benefited everyone I feel. It's certainly one of a kind and well worth checking out!
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