Screenshot from movie trailer: And yes, I realize there is now a fake FB account this *character* in the movie...

Spoiler alert, I don’t really talk too much about the actual film’s “plot”, but if you haven’t seen it, watch the trailer here – watch the movie in mid September, and then come back.  I am not going to reveal the *twist* ending, go pay and watch the film. I was very fortunate today to be invited to a screening of the new movie Catfish.  It is a new documentary/reality-thriller about an online relationship that goes sour.  I knew very little about the film other than a very intriguing trailer that was floating around YouTube.  The film was quite enjoyable, and it did prove to be the emotional roller-coaster as promised, however there were a lot of mysteries behind the nature of the film itself.  In this post, I wanted to outline what I found fascinating about the  film, what I found unsettling about the film, and address the biggest question surrounding the movie:  Were the events in this film was REAL or FAKE?

Well… it was all real..
To be quite honest, I assumed it was a horror/mockumentary.  It was marketed as a horror/mockumentary…. When I saw the trailer I assumed that, when I watched the film I began to question that, and when I sat through a live Q/A session with the creators, I was really really confused.  There have already been other posts which outline the questionable nature of the film itself, and even at Sundance, an audience member apparently asked whether it was real or not (to the surprise of the audience and the film-makers).  I am generally skeptical about everything I watch, I am from the internet generation where we are trained to question almost everything we see.  After all, without questioning the genuine nature of the film would be horribly ironic and would miss the whole point of the movie itself.  That said, I don’t feel bad for asking the question in the first place.

Not surprisingly, opinions online range from “C’mon, it is obviously fake”, to “No, seriously, this is actually real.”  These varying opinions to me point out that it is not obvious.  At a high level it seems so outrageous that it cannot be true, however, for now I’ve come to the uncomfortable conclusion that the movie is real.  Here is why:

1. A live interview with the crew: After the film, there was a great QA session with the filmmakers who took many questions from the audience.  Almost every question was about the circumstances of the events, and the interactions with the real people in the film.  I can’t imagine the act needs to be drawn out that long…  They seemed like genuinely nice guys. *(update, I just met them, and all 3 of them were awesome guys…)

2. An almost overwhelming amount online evidence leftover from the events in the film: After Googling around for literally like 10 minutes out of curiosity, I found enough evidence to convince myself within reasonable doubt that it is real.  I am not going to post links, but you can easily find tons of links to the people and events referenced in the movie.  It took me about 2 minutes to find the actual Google Street View location we see in the film of the house, which made me very uncomfortable.  At that point, my personal creep meter was at a limit and I backed off.  I had seen enough, and want to respect these personal boundaries (which I had already over stepped)

Then why did I come to such an uncomfortable default conclusion?

It was marketed as fiction, so I was compelled to do some research.  I really didn’t dig that deep.  After watching the movie, and hearing about the “great viral marketing”, I jumped online.  Being a huge fan of LOST’s famous alternate reality campaign, and probably being one of the few people who saw all the extra content LOST scattered online, I figured it was all part of the experience.  But then I guess I dug too deep. I am presented with the option of either accepting that the story is real, or that it is fake and some very distasteful viral-marketing department has made some questionable marketing decisions. Given the evidence presented to me, I don’t want to look any deeper.  If everything I unearthed is an elaborate alternate reality ploy by a devious marketing department, then I will have been duped.  But I really don’t want that to be the case, and will just default to the assumption that I saw an interesting accounting of some pretty bizarre events miraculously caught on tape by the film crew it just happened to involve.

So then the biggest mystery to me now is this: Why did the marketing team (presumably Rouge Media/Universal) make it so ambiguous of whether the film is real or not?

  • The biggest draw of this film, which intensified the emotions exponentially, was that it was all REAL, why hide that?
  • If the actual film makers weren’t there for the 1 hour QA after, I’m fairly certain that 1/2 people in the audience would have assumed it was a work of fiction.
  • There was very little mentioned in the film that really emphasized that it was all true events (no more than say, Blair Witch).  Again, why down play this?
  • Why did they market this movie like a Blair Witch / Paranormal Activity knock off if they were legit?
  • Why was the trailer’s copy-writing so confusing?:  “Not based on a true story, not inspired by real events… Just True”. Yeah I get what they are saying, but that is just utterly horrible copy!
  • Why include real names/addresses in the film (and trailer) that easily link back to online profiles of the real people in the film?
  • Why has no one else (seemingly) lifted up a few rocks before questioning, discovering the same (in plain sight) evidence I found?

Why not make it PAINFULLY clear to the viewers that this is a true story?  That way you don’t get speculations like this, or this, or this, or this….. I get that it creates buzz, and press, but it takes away from the story (in my opinion).

I guess, it is not that important to know if it was real or not, but I fear the majority of the American audiences will assume it is fiction, and that is unfortunate.  Either way, it was a highly enjoyable film and an incredibly story.  Perhaps the ambiguity will minimize the public attention/scrutiny of the people featured in the movie.  Perhaps the success of this movie will help bury the references to these real people, and hopefully protect them from the Internets.  I’ve purposely left out any names, links, or references to avoid the robots and spiders out of (what I feel is) courtesy to the people of the film.  I REALLY hope that people respect the boundaries of privacy of these people and that everything works out well for the filmmakers and the family.

So what are you thoughts?  End of the day, maybe we just saw the extended version of the HOPA girl…..