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film review: Catfish

film review: Catfish

If nothing else, Catfish may win awards for the most effective advertising and promotional campaign of the year. The buzz on this movie has been exceptionally loud, which is all the more unusual because no one seem to know what it’s about. Several people who have seen the trailer (HERE) have told me it’s reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project, which in fact it isn’t.

It’s a difficult film to review because I don’t want to give too much away. Maintaining its central “secret” isn’t a gimmick; it’s essential to a viewer’s ability to enjoy the picture. That said, I watched it for a second time last week with my class at USC and actually liked it better than I did the first time around: I took note of the clever way the filmmakers presented their story (including use of music, graphics, etc.) and appreciated more fully how they dealt with the unexpected events that presented—

—themselves as their spontaneous story unfolded.

Catfish is indelibly a product of the modern era of communication and technology. Filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman find that their habit of continually shooting video of each other—and especially Ariel’s brother Nev—has resulted in a great story that just might be worthy of a feature film. Nev’s obsessive texting and e-mailing to an 8-year-old girl in Michigan, and her family, is just the first step in this high-tech adventure. But as technology gives way to human contact, all three participants realize that the material they’ve stumbled onto is sensitive and potentially hurtful; it’s how they respond that makes Catfish so interesting and worthwhile.

I’m sorry that this review is vague, but if you see the film I think you’ll understand. Catfish may not be an “important” documentary, but it is an emblematic (and cautionary) story of our times, and well worth seeing.

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