Review of Catfish Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost, Nev Schulman
This film has been on my radar screen for a while. I knew I wanted to see it when I first heard about it. Then I saw a 20/20 or Dateline episode about the film and put the actual film on the back-burner. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m thinking it should have gotten a best documentary Oscar nod. It was that good.
Most people know by now that this film is about a woman who made up a fake Facebook profile, which she then used to create a relationship with someone who eventually discovered the truth. But that one sentence synopsis doesn’t even come close to explaining the many levels that this film touches on.
Before I talk about the documentary, I want to relate a story of mine that has some similarities to this film. When I was in the sixth or seventh grade, I was sitting at my desk (we had desks back then with the seat attached to the desk) and not paying attention to the teacher, which was most of the time, and I noticed that someone had written a note in pencil on the inside of my desk. I don’t remember what the note said, but it was along the lines of “I wish I didn’t have to be here today.” Now since it was written in pencil I decided to erase it and put my own note in its place. I wrote something like “Me, too,” though I doubt I got the spelling and punctuation right.
The next day when I sat down at my desk a new note appeared written in pencil. Thus began what was as close to an online relationship as you could get back then. Yeah this was even before personal computers. Anyway, over the course of the next few weeks my pen-pal and I kept exchanging notes, and the notes became more and more amorous. I started to look forward to going to class for all the wrong reasons. As this flirtation continued at some point it donned on me that I had no idea if the person I had been flirting with was male or female. So I asked? Turned out that my secret girlfriend wasn’t a girl at all and the desk-note affair ended abruptly. Thankfully, I never did meet the person on the other end of those notes.
The woman who created the fantasy Facebook world is Angela Wesselman-Pierce. And before you start criticizing her, you have to understand the motivation behind her actions. Some of this was covered in the film and some I got from the Dateline or 20/20 episode.
Angela is an artist. The picture in this post is one of her pieces. But when she put her work out for others to judge, her work was criticized. As a writer, I know how criticism , especially unnecessarily cruel criticism, can affect your psyche. So Angela got the idea that if she presented her artwork as coming from her eight- or nine-year-old daughter, that people wouldn’t be so harsh. There is another really good documentary called My Kid Could Paint That that delves into this subject.
Then you have to look at Angela’s reality. She had to care for two disabled children. She was stuck in a life that didn’t allow her to pursue her dreams. So she created an alternate reality, and that was how she was able to escape. I don’t condone it, but I can understand it.
The fact that these guys were able to shoot this film on consumer handheld cameras, and edit it on their home computers, and then for it to make it all the way to my living room where I watched it on a Blu-Ray DVD player, is an amazing story in itself. It just goes to show you that story sells. I’d rather watch a film like this any day over the 200 million dollar super hero trash from Hollywood.
Bottom line. See this film. Now I know that Ariel and Nev Schulman and Henry Joost are tech savvy enough that sooner or later they’re going to get a Google alert that someone has written about them. So guys do me a favor and when you click on the link that brings you here, how about hitting my Facebook like button. I’m going to be looking for it. And would you post a comment, too?
One last note. Angela is no dummy. She’s also a damn good artist. She knows an opportunity when she sees it. She now offers her artwork online. You can purchase her artwork at www.artbyapierce.com. Angela, if you find your way here could you hit my like button also? And soon as I’m able to afford it, I’d be proud to have your work hanging on my wall. For now, my Facebook wall will have to do.