Directed by: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Running Time: 87 minutes
This is a sweet little independent picture that acts as a perfect companion piece to the studio backed The Social Network. As is the case with the most affecting documentaries, the initial subject does not turn out to be the ultimate focus. Capturing The Friedmans, Exit Through The Giftshop and Dig! all stumble upon a special resonance aside from their intended principal or central theme.
Catfish plays out with a startling familiarity. The use of Facebook and its associated terminology and features are so ingrained in everyday life that it is difficult to imagine a life without it. It centres on a group of arty New York twenty somethings. Yaniv is a photographer, specialising in dance and his brother Ariel is rather conveniently a film maker.
Yanev and Ariel share a ‘space’ in New York. These dudes are too achingly hip to even try to convey. Yaniv (or Nev to his hipster Friends) receives a painting of a photo that he had published in The New York Sun, from an 8 year old girl called Abbie from a small town in Michigan. An unlikely electronic relationship develops. After a few months of correspondence, the burgeoning friendship is documented by Ariel and hipster friend Henry. It turns out Abbie is one hell of a painter, Nev makes contact with Abbie’s mother Angela and discovers that Abbie’s work is selling for thousands of dollars. Nev gets involved with Abbie’s older sister, Megan. A long distance affair ensues and Nev is balls deep involved with a family he knows nothing about.
It is difficult to comment too much on the unfolding of the tangled web of online fucked-upness without revealing the obligatory third act denouement. Suffice to say, all is not what it seems and New York hipsters should stick to reading Pitchfork, shopping in American Apparel and continuing with their lifelong quest of assimilating Apple products in to their genetic makeup.
A well made and at times tensely documented feature, Catfish highlights the integration and penetration social networking has had on our every day lives. Nev is pretty likable throughout, and seems genuinely well intentioned. Perhaps too much for his own good. A valuable lesson is made clear; do not take everything you discover online at face(book) value.