There's a story that goes Morgan Spurlock, the West Virginia-born documentarian, approached the producers of Catfish after a festival screening, and said: "That's the best fake documentary I've ever seen." The producers insisted -- and continue to insist -- their work is real and not staged. But Spurlock's comment illustrates a significant part of the appeal of this flick: is it real, or is it fake?
The answer: It doesn't matter one damn bit.
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, Catfish follows New York photographer Nev Schulman as he begins an Internet relationship with a young, female art prodigy in Michigan, then allows the relationship to expand to other members of the girl's family. As relationships develop they become more intimate, and more mysterious. The final half of the flick wraps up the mystery, and dissects with incredible detail the reasons the mystery developed in the first place.
Catfish examines in-depth the modern use and mis-use of social media. The film demonstrates clear reasons sites such as Facebook are valuable tools in our society, then explores the way such sites isolate us further. They provide an escape from the hum-drum and boredom of real life, and a respite from the day-to-day responsibilities that come with it.
Catfish is a brilliant movie. Whether or not the film is real neither enhances or detracts from that brilliance. The beauty of the film is that it's really the story of all of us.