Last night I watched the film Catfish.
I have a bit of a habit of looking up things about films whilst I'm watching them (I don't do this in cinemas!) If an actor impresses me or looks familiar I google them or look the film up on IMDB for any interesting notes on production and reception.
Catfish tells the polemic story of 'meeting' and creating virtual relationships online, illustrating the extent to which the internet allows one's online and real life lives to differ.
I didn't really do this last night, I guess it totally absorbed (albeit several bits which irritated me as explained here). It didn't occur to me until about 2/3 the way through that there was a possibility that Catfish could be a 'real' 'authentic' documentary and not a fabricated drama pertaining to be a documentary.
As others have pointed out - why would the filmmakers start filming their friends life before anything had even began to unravel which might suggest that there could be a story here? But also - coming from a filmmakers perspective here - the quality of the filming is TERRIBLE. There is noise in practically every sequence. (By noise I mean grainy bits in the picture). Now I know I'm one to talk, my last couple of films have bits of noise in them as I've struggled with getting to grips with the techincals of my new Canon and ISO, aperture and frame rate (think I've got it now!).
But did they set out from the start to use this footage as a feature film? They obviously had ambitions to begin with. Was it their very first film? (It's not, the producer Andrew Jarecki produced 'Capturing the Freidmans' - another film I have many grips against!) Did they not have a friend, anyone who could have helped them with avoiding noise? It amazes me even more that this is a result of documentary filmmaking rather than a choice made by the producers in a drama to give it an amateur feel... for this reason I believed it to be a drama along the lines of the latest trend of wobbly handheld camera technique - Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project style...
I found the film made me question lots of things, perhaps the wrong questions though... Rather than questioning the authenticity and technical aspects, I should be asking questions about what it says about our society today, the way we live and communicate with each other. The way loneliness and despair drives people to go to such extremes.
As Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian said - I don't think Catfish is a fake: the hidden story is all too plausible.
Whether you agree with him or not on the fake question - he has a point!