What Is the Film "Catfish" About?

by David Harris

"Catfish" is a documentary from 2010, co-directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. It involves an online relationship between Schulman's brother Nev and a girl he meets on the Internet. As the Schulman brothers and Joost investigate further, the online girlfriend's story becomes less and less plausible.

Basics

"Catfish" was released by Universal Pictures/Rogue, which ran a campaign urging audience members not to tell others what the film is about. The movie begins in 2007 in New York City, where the Schulman brothers and Joost live. Nev, a budding photographer, is contacted on the Internet by Abby, an 8-year-old in Michigan, who has prodigiously created a painting based on one of Nev's photographs.

Getting Closer

Abby and Nev become friends on Facebook, and soon he becomes friends with her mother, Angela, and her older half-sister, Megan. Soon, Nev finds himself falling into a virtual love affair with Megan, a budding songwriter, despite communicating with her only on the Internet and by telephone. As the relationship deepens, Nev finds discrepancies in Megan's stories, and he learns that songs she sends him are not her singing and playing, and are taken directly from other artists on YouTube. Nev, his brother and Joost decide to travel to Michigan to uncover the truth.

Revelations

Once the filmmakers and Nev arrive in Michigan, they discover that Megan does not exist. Instead, she is the creation of lonely housewife Angela, who cares for her two disabled stepsons. Abby does exist, but she knows nothing about Nev or his photographs. Angela regrets fabricating all these personae on the Internet, but she explains how loneliness drove her to seek human contact over the Web.

Reception

In its limited release, "Catfish" grossed $3.2 million and garnered strong critical reviews. It was praised for its timely premise as online social networking sites such as Facebook allowed people to create whole new personae. Despite its warm reception, some critics questioned the authenticity of the film. People including documentarian Morgan Spurlock and actor Zach Galifianakis claimed that the film was completely fabricated by Joost and the Schulman brothers.

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