Pick of the Week – August 31-September 6, 2015

In yesterday’s post I talked a bit about online dating and the phenomenon of catfishing.  Using “catfish” as a word meaning someone who pretends to be someone else online, usually for the purposes of a romantic relationship, has become part of the English lexicon fairly quickly.  It’s origins only date back a little over 5 years.

My Pick for this week is that origin, the 2010 documentary film Catfish.  If you have seen the Catfish television series on MTV, you are aware of the subject of the documentary, Nev Schulman.  However, unlike the series in which he and Max Joseph travel the country helping people find the truth about their online loves, the documentary is Nev’s story.

Nev’s brother, Ariel, and friend Henry Joost are filmmakers, and they start documenting the online friendship that develops between Nev, which was a photographer in New York City at the time, and Abby, an eight-year-old girl from Michigan.  Abby first contacted Nev because she was interested in painting of one of his photographs. 

From there, Nev begins communicating with other members of Abby’s family, including Abby’s older sister, Megan, who Nev quickly falls for.  As Nev’s relationship with Megan deepens, he, Ariel, and Henry make a series of discoveries that bring some of what Megan has told Nev into question.    With incongruities piling up, the three head to Michigan to get some answers.

Catfish the documentary is a mystery at its heart, and the directors, Ariel and Henry, do a great job of pacing and building suspense.  If you’ve never seen the subsequent series, the documentary is engrossing.  And even if you have and have a sense of what’s coming, it’s interesting to go back and watch Nev, who has spent four seasons helping others in similar situations, trying to make sense of his relationship with Megan and her family.

Interestingly (to me at least), the definition of a “catfish” in the film is not the one that has come into use subsequently.  I’ll leave it to you to watch Catfish to find out what the title was supposed to mean.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter