Movie Review: Catfish

I would like to take the time to review a documentary I find valuable in today’s technologically adolescent world. With a big push for 21st century skills in education today it is relevant to approach social media and it’s benefits as well as it’s dangers. This film is educational in both.

First shown at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival this intriguing documentary, Catfish, shows a real-life virtual relationship in the making. (Real-life virtual relationship – oxymoron?) What I find important about this movie is that it explores today’s common technologies and how simple and exciting it has become to make new friends and pursuing relationships. Facebook, Craigslist, Match.com – all too easy and is becoming much more common. On the flip-side, however, it also shows the misuse of these technologies and that is where things get interesting…

The movie is upfront in absorbing the viewer in the idea that we are in a Facebook, Google, Apple dominated world. From the get go and throughout the movie, the director cleverly splices in these technologies to speak a language a lot of us know all too well. Tagged photos on Facebook introduce the characters, Google Earth and Maps are used to show their travel routes, and YouTube, smart phones, and computers are the essential communication tools used between the main character and his new found friends. All these technologies a lot of students know better than their own parents and teachers. This is why I feel this documentary can not only be educational for our students but truly eye-opening.

We are first introduced to Nev, a New York City photographer, and his roommates who are also into photography and video recording. Nev surprisingly receives a painting in the mail which is of one of his published works. He contacts the artist that sent it to him and it turns out to be a talented eight year old girl named Abbey from Michigan who loves to paint. He first befriends her mother, Angela, and the two become ecstatic about continuing the artistic relationship between Nev and Abbey. Nev mails them photographs and Abbey paints them and sends them to him. Nev and his roommates find the relationship fascinating and decide to make a documentary about it. They begin to film every interaction Nev has with them. We see conversations with Nev and Angela over the phone. They extend their friendship to Facebook and through that medium he becomes friends with the entire family, most notably Abbey’s older and attractive sister, Megan. Their conversations become lengthy and flirtatious through Facebook, Google Chat, text messages, and phone calls. She even sends him videos of herself singing and playing the guitar via youtube. After months of getting to know each other they admit their attraction to each other and are excited to finally meet. We watch their relationship grow and Nev begins to plan a way for him and his roommates to finally meet with Abbey, Megan, and Angela. Here I think is best to end my plot summary.

The documentary shifts it’s direction. It no longer is about two talented artists working together in different parts of the country. It becomes a mystery Nev and company can’t wrap their head around. That is what is fascinating about this film. It’s not looking back on what happened; it actually captures everything that happens as it happened. We see the story unfold the way it actually happened to Nev. I showed this to a 21st Century Skills class I taught and they really enjoyed it. I was vague about the description of the movie because I felt that it is best appreciated knowing very little about it. It’s appropriate for a high school classroom setting (rated pg-13) and it makes for a good discussion piece, again, about the benefits as well as the dangers of social media.

The documentary itself is engaging from start to finish. Anyone that watches it will be shocked to say the least but will also be made much more aware and cautious about who they speak to online and this, I feel, is why it is an important documentary for students to see. They are the first generation growing up and living life with the internet. They do not know life without it and as teachers we must act accordingly and teach them that it can be an essential tool in life but it can also be used against them.

I hope whoever reads this agrees and that fellow teachers out there are also able to share this important and memorable film with their students. If so then I am glad to have helped. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments.

-Mr. Mendo

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