While I had read quite a bit of press about the new documentary Catfish, which has been generating buzz and controversy since it premiered at Sundance, I went to the screening at the DGA last night still not knowing what to expect. Even though I was aware of that there would be a dramatic reveal, I was still not prepared for it and when it happened I did succumb to jaw dropping astonishment, similar to watching last season’s Dexter finale where is Rita murdered. Certainly the pivotal moment in Catfish when Nev, the 24-year-old photographer who is at the center of the film, realizes that the music he has been listening to is not from Megan but downloaded from other sources on the Internet keys us in that something is not right. Still, I remained unprepared for the depth of the seduction and betrayal or the answer to the mystery.
As someone who came very late to Facebook and finds it helpful, somewhat entertaining but also a means for more narcissism in this culture and a way to avoid connection with people, I am old-fashioned and a techno-phobe. I like reading books, magazines and newspapers in their traditional forms and still prefer talking to friends on the telephone and haven’t done the online dating sites…yet. But I do understand how an online relationship could develop between him and the cute girl, it did seem a bit off that this young girl Abby was the “in” for the film, and it’s also sad to me how involved Nev was and how many emails, texts, phone calls were involved in this supposed romance. Sure, you meet someone and if there’s any kind of geographic distance between two people, email is a great way to communicate, but Nev and Megan’s relationship is based solely on their Internet connection and that’s a bit painful to watch and demonstrates the kind of isolation that is a major downside of living in a huge city like New York or Los Angeles. I lived in New York when I was his age and although it was exciting and fun…I moved there not knowing anyone and I found it very distant and cold at times.
Nev did a Q&A after the screening and filled in many holes in terms of the development of the film…including the sequence with Vince, the husband, of the woman, Angela Wesselman-Pierce, who we find out played all of the characters in Nev’s cyber family. Vince’s articulate interview where he discusses catfish, which is where the title for the documentary came from, is amazing and seems to come out of nowhere. The filmmakers, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, also leave out other scenes that would have definitely added some helpful info for viewers but they had more than 200 hours of footage to go through.
The mystery woman, Wesselman Pierce, will appear on ABC’s 20/20 on Friday night and I definitely hope to catch this interview to find out more about her and why she agreed to allow the filmmakers to include her in the film, one that represents the best and worst uses of the Internet and social networking sites, and the perfect bookend to the hit film, The Social Network.