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  Catfish Low Profile
Year: 2010
Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Stars: Yaniv Schulman, Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost, various
Genre: DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: In 2007, Yaniv Schulman was a photographer who lived with his brother Ariel and his creative partner Henry in New York, where they started to make a film on Yaniv, or Nev as they called him. Rel and Henry were budding directors, and saw some potential for the story that was emerging around Nev for he had recently been contacted by an eight-year-old girl who sent him a painting adapted from one of his photographs which had recently been published in a magazine. Before long, the flattered Nev was using the internet to get to know the girl's family better, opening up a whole can of worms...

It was ironic that a film that places the truth of what you are seeing under the microscope and finds it wanting should itself be accused of being economical with the truth. In fact, there were many people who thought this was entirely fictional, and a way of duping audiences into accepting the trio of movie makers as professionals, when, in the sceptics' view, they were simply clever, even devious, amateurs. Amateurs who had fooled a lot of the gullible, but not this proud, conspiracy-minded band who were not going to swallow any old nonsense just because the filmmakers said it was true.

This leaves you with a problem. Either you go along with what Catfish tells you, and muse over its message that you cannot trust everything you see on the internet, or you take that one step further and refuse to take on board the film itself. It's an intriguing quandary that the Schulmans and Joost were not entirely adept at batting away, as they undoubtedly were smooth operators when it came to relaying their tale, both in the film and in interviews they publicised it with. The whole buzz around the documentary centred around not having the major revelation spoiled for you, but that put plenty of audiences on guard for a start.

And besides, if you couldn't work out that something was not quite on the level from the first five minutes, then you were a lot more innocent than even Nev was portrayed to be. The question of how much we can trust what others tell us on the internet, on social networking sites for example, gave it a modern tone, and the images frequently broke away from the handheld camera footage to recreations of Nev clicking away on webpages providing a slick appearance on its obviously low budget. It could be that the sceptics preferred to believe those they met online were genuine and this exposé of their faith as something that had pulled the wool over their eyes was not what they wanted to hear.

But more than that, it could have been that the whole culture of not getting taken in by everything the media told you had created legions of doubters out of what had previously been eager consumers, and Catfish suffered the brunt of that backlash. As it stood, it was a simple tale of detective work, as Nev started to think that his new net buddies were too good to be true, that the little girl was not the precociously talented artist she claimed, that her older sister was not the available potential partner for Nev that he had hoped, and that those photographs on their profiles were not what they claimed to be. Catfish offered much in the way of food for thought, but didn't amount to much more than bolstering the cynicism that was rampant in the new millennium, something the film itself fell victim to. With that in mind, it might not have been all that remarkable, only rather sad. Music by Mark Mothersbaugh.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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