06 December, 2011

Puppy Film Festival 7: Catfish

Catfish is documentary about misrepresentation on Facebook which may be misrepresenting its own veracity, but is kinda engaging and touching all the same.

A New York 20 something professional photographer gets sent some interesting naive art based on his published photos, painted by an eight year old girl in Michigan, and he strikes up Facebook conversations with her mother and older sister leading to a long distance crush relationship with the older sister.  The photographer's brother/flatmate is a filmaker and with another friend, they begin to document this socially networked virtual relationship.

It starts anecdotally, and, to the point, perhaps too anecdotally.  The first thing you will wonder is why did they begin filming this?  On the other hand if you've seen either Tarnation or Cloverfield, you've seen that the self obsessed youth of today in both reality and fiction are bound to strap a webcam onto their egos at the drop of a status line.  You could spend the whole film trying to second guess what's going on, but to some extent that cannily fits in with the subject's dilemma as things begin to seem that they are not what they seem.  What makes the film compelling despite its more ropey premises, is that many of us interact online as a matter of course now, and we are constantly faced with the question of who we are actually dealing with, how well do we know these people whose faces appear in 55 by 55 pixel boxes on our screens.

There are some mind bendingly stupid assumptions made by the protagonists.  It's kind of like watching someone blogging Blair Witch as it's happening, only without the witch, the horror, and they have sat/nav so they don't get lost pointlessly in the woods.  As we see them test the limits of the reality they've been presented with, we wonder what is motivating both the film makers, and the who-are-they-really? social group they've interacted with remotely.

Ultimately the film becomes a story about how and why we construct identity.  The emotional weight of the payoff, an insight into the need for human connection, minimizes the issue as to whether any of this story is true, or if documentary is just the style it wears, like a choice of profile pic, or the font for a blog.  It stands as an interesting, relevant and involving story either way.

Did I really watch it? Maybe I just Googled it and gleaned a dozen reviews, or saw parts of it grabbed on YouTube.  I'll make you guess.

But if you think I'm not telling the truth, ask yourself, what's in it for him?

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