The new film Catfish wants to get people talking, but maybe not in the way it has. Since its premiere at Sundance, the film has made an impact on viewers. It begins with NY photographer Yaniv Schulman starting a Facebook relationship with a Midwestern family, then goes to a dark place. Some people are calling bullsh*t on filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost. They’re sticking to their story though.
“This question of whether the film is real or not never occurred to us while we were editing because why would you ever suspect that people would be suspicious of something that actually happened to you,” Joost said at a roundtable in Los Angeles today. “But when we started showing it at Sundance, that’s when we started getting questions from the audience. When we were making the film, there were many times when we thought wow, this is too good to be true in a lot of ways, or I can’t believe that just happened the way that it did or that we captured that in the way that we did, but it really happened. That’s the truth.”
More after the jump…
Other viewers are angry that they’re being a sold a thriller. The title is mysterious, the tag line is “Don’t let anybody tell you what it is.” If you don’t get a massive shocker, that might be a cheap marketing ploy. The filmmakers stand behind Rogue’s campaign too.
“That is part of the movie,” Joost continued. “That’s I think the crux of the second act. What I like about it being marketed that way is just that it kind of has you looking in a different direction and expecting something and the film ends up being a lot more than that.”
So the film doesn’t end with the filmmakers disappearing under a bundle of sticks, but it’s got something to think about. If you take their word for it that all this Facebook mystery really happened, you can learn from their experience.
“I think it says that the internet and social networking is sort of a perfect distraction and fantasy for people to fill any empty space in their lives, whether it’s just to fill time and distract them from a real life situation that’s uncomfortable,” Ariel Schulman said. “A bad date or a boring dinner, just hop on your phone and you’re on the internet and you’re surrounded by 1000s of people. Or it can fill a much simpler void which is my life isn’t what I want it to be I am not who I want to be. Let me create a better self, at avatar. Bam, five minutes later you’re up and going.”
Suspicion comes with the territory. Certainly in a world where even Hollywood films use a documentary style, the filmmakers understand skepticism. “I think that there has been a trend for a while of the mockumentary and also the fake documentary which is kind of a different thing,” Joost said. “The Cloverfield and Blair Witch Project type thing and then even more recently, those commercials that are trying to look like YouTube viral videos where something totally crazy happens and a visual effects company manipulates it. So I think people are trained now to be suspicious about what they see and wonder what the motives are behind it.”
Catfish opens September 17.