Brandon's Sundance Review: Joost & Schulman's Catfish
by Brandon Lee Tenney
January 30, 2010
Immediately after the end credits completed, I tweeted: "Catfish is mind-blowing. Seriously one of the most odd, funny, weird, terrifying, sad, unique films I've ever seen. Honestly speechless." I still kind of am. Good thing all of this is in writing. Catfish is a documentary from directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman about Ariel's brother, Nev, a New York-based photographer who becomes pen pals with an eight-year-old girl from Michigan who sends him paintings of his photos. It's a very contemporary feeling film as the filmmakers make copious use of Facebook, Google Earth, Gmail, Google Street View, and YouTube in their film as support of its topic. It adds a feeling of immediacy that the film tends to rely on. And that, my friends, is all I can say. Know, though, that that is just the beginning.
The film has become the film to see at this year's Sundance. At last night's screening there was a sold-out crowd and nearly two-hundred people had to be turned away from seeing it at all. It's been generally lauded by critics and audiences alike. And it's no surprise why. The subject, Nev, is handsome and charming. The story circling around him is entertaining, exciting, and unlike anything I've seen. The film kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat -- literally on the fucking edge of my seat -- right up until the end. Catfish is able to blend tones -- as I said above, from funny to weird to terrifying to sad -- better than a lot of films are able to nail a single tone. The film also captures a sense of sincerity that is very disarming.
Overall, Catfish is a spectacular film. It's just a great story. A timely story. Humorous and benevolent while acting as a sort of cautionary tale for the internet age. If you can, whenever you can, see this film. Just don't talk to anyone who has if you haven't seen it yet. If they try any funny business, throw a Vulcan nerve pinch their way and quick. You won't want to know anything going in.
Brandon's Sundance Rating: 9.5 out of 10
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