List Film

Catfish (4 stars)

Debate over documentary that taps into universal desires for love, acceptance, and recognition


(12A) 87min

Fabulism flourishes in the unlikeliest of places in this intriguing documentary co-directed by young New York filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. It begins with Ariel’s photographer brother Nev receiving a painting of one his photographs from eight-year-old Amy Pierce, who lives in Michigan. Both flattered and curious, Manhattan-based Nev begins an online and phone friendship with Amy, her mother Angela, and also Amy’s older sister Megan. Soon Nev and Megan are caught up in a cyber-romance, until a troubling discovery leads to Nev and the film crew visiting the family in person.

There has already been considerable debate in America as to the veracity of Catfish – have we as viewers been subject to a skilful cinematic hoax? It’s difficult to give a definitive answer, but equally one can admire how Joost and Schulman have assembled their tale of deception. There are no voiceovers or traditional interviews; instead the directors draw on a range of devices, including Google Maps and Street Views, Facebook tags and profiles, and texts and emails to provide the necessary exposition and to immerse us in a virtual universe. And although the film leaves many questions unanswered, its gripping story succeeds in tapping into our universal desires for love, acceptance, and recognition.

Selected release from Fri 17 Dec.

Catfish trailer


  • 4 stars
  • 2010
  • US
  • 87 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
  • Cast: Megan Faccio, Melody C Rosher, Ariel Schulman

A skilful contemporary fabulist work from young filmmakers Joost and Schulman, following Schulman's artist older brother and his burgeoning online friendship with the family of a young fan. Blurring the line between true documentary and cinematic hoax, the true nature of the piece remains unclear but it's an intriguing…

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