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Film Club: ‘Catfish’

The New Trend In Docs Blurs Line Between Fact and Fiction

Off on a journey to uncover the mysteries of a FaceBook family in

Credit: Rogue Pictures

Above: Off on a journey to uncover the mysteries of a FaceBook family in "Catfish."


The KPBS Film Club of the Air looks to how documentaries can blur the line between fact and fiction.

Recent documentaries – “I’m Still Here,” “A Film Unfinished,” “Catfish” – may -- in very different way – prompt viewers to consider the authenticity of what they seeing. Listen to our Film Club discussion on documentaries.

In the beginning, documentaries simply documented something and audiences rarely questioned what they saw. But any documentary has a point of view and manipulates what it shows in some way. The bias or perspective of the filmmaker may be very subtle and only subjective in a marginal way. Or it can be extreme. On the Film Club, critics Scott Marks, Anders Wright, and myself had a lively discussion about documentaries with a focus on “Catfish.” The interesting thing about this film is that all three of us came away with a completely different take on what we just saw.

For my part, I find it different to believe that this mumblecore-inclined group of filmmakers is telling me the whole truth. They are in part examining a story about deception so maybe their lack of honesty is fitting. But I feel as though the whole film might be a fraud or that the filmmakers are manipulating real people in order to tell the story they want to tell.

On a certain level the film is fascinating but unfortunately it is also way too long even at 90 some minutes. The premise involves a pair of filmmakers who coerce their friend/brother Nev to let them make a movie about his relationship with a family he meets online: a mother, her talented young painter-daughter, and her sexy older daughter with whom Nev begins a relationship. The problem is that Nev is such a shallow, smug individual. You quickly grow bored with his feigned lack of interest in the film (he obviously loves the camera on him) and his trite response to the complications that arise in his relationship.

The film failed to snag my interest but the subject it covers (which can’t be revealed because it would involve spoilers) makes it a perfect companion piece for “The Social Network.”

Listen to our Film Club discussion that also includes “A Film Unfinished” and “I’m Still Here.”

Companion viewing: “The Social Network,” “Baghead,” “Capturing the Friedmans”

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