Catfish A review (spoiler free)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

catfish film"Let me tell you a story of the cod fish. At the turn of the century cod fish were in much demand on the east coast. News of this tasty fish spread across the country all the way to the west coast. There was however a problem. How could they get the fish across the country and still keep it fresh. They tried to freeze the fish and send it by rail, the fastest means at the time.

When it was prepared it turn out to be very mushy and lacked flavor. Then someone decided to ship the fish live turning railroad cars into huge saltwater aquariums. When the cod fish arrived they were still alive but when they were prepared they were still mushy and tasteless. After studying the cod fish someone discovered that their natural enemy was the catfish. This time when the cod fish were but in the tanks they place a few catfish in with them. Those catfish chased the cod fish all the way across the country to the west coast.

This time when they were prepared they were flaky and had the same flavor as they did when they were caught fresh and prepared on the east coast. You see the catfish kept the cod from becoming stale. The catfish kept them fresh.” - From Runrandall’s blog. The context is keeping your motivation high for running. Please note this may or may not be a real blog.

catfish film
The above quote also explains a part of the story of Catfish. At the time it is mentioned in the story, the storyteller either leaves out some bits or certain bits are intelligible. It left me a little confused, as well as some others from what I gather browsing the web. Although to be honest it’s important but it is by no means the crux of the story. I just thought I’d lay it out here so you don’t go through the same confusion I did. Now that that’s out the way:

Like you, I heard the buzz from festival’s like Sundance etc. and wondered if Catfish was any good? Yes it is.

Like you I watched the trailer for Catfish and wondered what was going to happen next and how important was it to the rest of the film? Scammers operating some sort of Catfish export scam, backwater child porn rings, body part trafficking that smuggle the parts out hidden amongst frozen Catfish, deformed Catfish like cannibals that lured snacks in via the Internet, all these insane scenarios went through my mind, but nothing prepared me for the tragic truth.

For the bulk of the film we get up to speed with where the trailer picks up. This is compellingly told through documentary style smart editing, some playful visuals and tools of the Internet age; Facebook, Google, Photoshop, Google Maps, mobile phones and most of all engaging performances from the cast.

Nev Schulman is a New York photographer. He strikes up a slightly odd friendship with an 8 year old child artist Abby Pierce - who found one of his photos in a news paper and would like to paint it. As their relationship and communication increases Nev becomes friendlier with Abby’s mom Angela, her sister Meg and other members of their family.

Nev’s brother Ariel and film making partner Henry decide to make a documentary of Nev’s friendship with the child prodigy Abby. We grow closer to Abby and her “Facebook family” as Nev affectionately names them. And we are swept away, just as Nev is - when he starts developing feelings for Meg and their relationship goes to the next level. Then something strikes an odd chord with Nev and slowly he starts unraveling some untruths resulting in the trio heading to confront his Facebook family.

The journey from meeting Nev through to this point will keep you interested and pleasantly surprised at it’s quirky up beat realness, just after the middle the tension kicks up a notch as it all starts unraveling heading for the climatic finale.

Currently there seems to be a big debates online about how real the events in Catfish are?

Who cares? It’s a damn good film made to entertain - which it does as well as raises an issue of while immersing ours selves in technology we may have gained something but may have also lost something else.

Catfish is not for everyone despite it's marketing it is a small well crafted, touching & bittersweet tale of man kind for the modern age. I can see why some people have felt that the marketing of Catfish is contrary to the film itself and I suspect that long after the haunting images of Catfish are pushed out of our minds eye - we'll remember the marketing.

I have to say Yaniv Schulman's performance is incredibly believable. Granted this might be because Catfish is a real documentary but his mainly one man show will make the journey an easy ride.

See Catfish before the secret gets out! Catfish is in UK cinemas from this Friday, 17 December, 2010.

Directors: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Starring: Megan Faccio, C. Roscher, Ariel Schulman, Yaniv Schulman