However, after first premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, there were no buyers interested in the film. It was not until later on that Brett Ratner (an American director) randomly took an interest in it and pitched it to Ryan Kavanaugh to buy (of Relativity Media). A bidding war between Paramount Pictures and Relativity Media ensued, with the latter coming away with the incredible film, Catfish – a film which Ratner says, ‘Everybody needs to see’. High praise indeed.
Astonishingly enough, the film has had two lawsuits thrown at it due to the songs that were used not being ‘attributed to their creators’. The first of which was from Spin Move Records (owned by Threshold Media Corp.) because the documentary used a copyrighted song (All Downhill From Here) by signed artist Amy Kuney. It is interesting to note that at first Spin Move Records actually seemed proud of their connection with the film, even posting about it on their website – however, this post was promptly removed. Ok…
The big debate revolving around this being that as the film is a ‘real life documentary’, the song was a ‘fair use’ of the copyright. But if (as some people seem to assert) the film was a hoax and completely staged, then the producers have basically exploited the copyrighted song. This appears to be an awfully sceptical way of thinking though, and I am strongly of the opinion that it is indeed an authentic documentary. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the ‘acting’ is completely genuine, and this is precisely why the film is so great! But hey, some people love to make up unnecessary conspiracies.
What I liked most about this movie is the fact that it doesn’t just go down the ‘conventional’ route of a younger girl/older man type of situation, which is the most associated ‘fear’ of using social networking sites. Catfish explores an altogether different concept which I think is much more prevalent – that the internet offers a distorted view on things, that it enables people to show themselves as they want to be seen, not as what they actually are. Taken to extremes, this can lead to dangerous places, and what the documentary looks into is how loneliness can be a contributing factor in the ‘abuse’ of social networking websites. There isn’t anything malicious or evil about these people, they are just desperate and lonely. This overall message that Catfish delivers is an extremely powerful one and as a viewer, you can’t help but feel touched by what you witness.
Despite the controversy surrounding it, after Catfish’s release everyone involved has come away the better for having done it. Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost (directors of Catfish) have managed to successfully enter the Hollywood film industry by directing the third and fourth instalments of the hugely successful Paranormal Activity franchise. Nev Schulman, who was in front of the camera throughout the documentary, has spent time filming a pilot for an upcoming reality TV show about social networking and online dating. Angela Wesselman (though she now goes by the name Angela Pierce) had previously struggled to gain a following for her artwork, but now has over 5000 fans on her Facebook Art page (called Art by Angela Pierce, for anyone who’s interested). The model, Aimee Gonzales, has embraced her connection to ‘Megan’ by setting up a Facebook fanpage (with over 6000 fans) explaining who she is (describing herself as ‘the face of the movie Catfish’) as well as continuing to pursue her modelling career and setting up her own photography company.
To summarise, this documentary is extremely compelling and thought-provoking, a fascinating and unconventional look at the slightly ‘darker’ side of Facebook. The gradual suspense throughout caused a knot in my stomach and I’m used to watching horror films, so it must be good, right? I would definitely recommend this film because it’s a great conversation piece, as well as lingering on your mind for ages afterwards. Not bad for a little independent film, huh?