Now, I don’t know how much you know about this film but it is one that has seemed to appear from no where and has gathered a certain amount of buzz due to it’s strong appearance at last years Sundance Film Festival, but also due to its subject matter and the controversy as to how much of this movie is actually genuine and how much is fabricated. It is a ‘documentary’ but I have to say I thought it was a fake documentary when I first saw the trailer, as it was much-advertised as a thriller, focusing on internet phobias and paranoia. And yes for some of it, there is an unsettling atmosphere that is almost unbelievable, but as life sometimes shows, the unbelievable is more than likely the truth.

Documentary or not, the film follows Nev, a photographer living in New York whose brother and best friend decide to use Nev as the subject for their documentary film due to his recent involvement with a young girl on Facebook, who is supposedly a very talented artist. Through her he adds her sister, Megan, on Facebook, and this slowly builds into a long distance internet relationship. He adds her friends, her family and everything seems legitimate. But after 8 months, inaccuracies begin to appear in some of what she says to Nev, which inspires the idea of going to see her at her home and face her directly and get the truth. What they discover though, is something none of them expected.

From this description, and indeed the trailer, it does make it sound like a found footage horror movie that plays on the techno fears of modern-day society. Which would’ve worked well. But instead, the revelation that the boys have is much more grounded in reality to what a horror movie may have contained. But it is utterly bizarre and not what I was expecting at all. I was slightly underwhelmed due to the advertising but it is certainly engrossing enough as you are literally left perplexed as to what the hell just happened.

It is in the reveal, though, that the movie is most believable as a documentary. It is strange enough for you to believe that they couldn’t fabricate it. Which leads to questioning how genuine the build up of the movie is, as the latest internet murmurs say was shot after the ending to be an efficient and more relevant build up. This is an interesting theory, and of course the process of post production would affect how much is manipulated for the final product. But the way the three guys act and react seems far too natural, and whatever effect post-production has had is really in the way it incorporates the world of the internet and modern computer technology. The Google Earth transitions are clever and there are some very slick edits incorporating the Facebook profiles with a nice choice of indie style music and a nice little cover of The Beach Boys Good Vibrations.

Where The Social Network had a lot to say on what Facebook has done for genuine relationships, this film shows the darker side of Facebook, how meeting people online can be a dangerous game. It asks the question how much can you trust from what you see on Facebook. It is a perfect movie for our times as this kind of thing can and does happen in our society, unfortunately with much darker results than what you see here. Again, this is another part where the movie is a bit weird; the relationship that Nev has with Megan. Nev is supposed to be a successful, intelligent photographer, you would think he’d have a bit more common sense to realise something was up a bit sooner than 8 months in to it. This is the main idea that supports the theory that the events before the revelation were filmed after it. But if this is the case then Nev and his friends deserve Oscars if that is indeed acting.

Documentaries are a hard thing to put your finger on, as we have discussed in my Film Studies class earlier this school year, what exactly makes a documentary a documentary? It has to be an account of truth, with real raw footage, that perhaps can be supported with reconstructed footage. What this means for this film I’m not sure, the filmmakers swear it’s all true, but would there be this amount of questioning behind it if it wasn’t fabricated in someway? It may be that people just can’t accept that such developments as Facebook have led to this kind of thing to happen in our society. It goes back to what I was saying at the beginning, sometimes the unbelievable is the most believable. And it takes documentaries like this to cause such a reaction to get people to notice. It is certainly one that makes you think and it certainly is a Catfish of a movie (you’ll know what this term refers to once you’ve seen the film). And like someone states in the film, thank God for the Catfish, because they do keep things interesting and you on your toes. Just don’t go accepting strangers on Facebook now kids!

4/5 – A strange but important documentary (or possibly not) that certainly stays with you long after you’ve watched it.

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