Does Sundance Sensation Catfish Have a Truth Problem?

First of all, it strains believability that these savvy, plugged-in New Yorkers didn't have any doubts about the Pierces until several months in. The most telling sign is that Schulman and Joost were filming the supposedly naive Nev for all those months and even recording his phone calls with the family -- and to what end? After the screening, Ariel Schulman claimed that he simply happens to film his brother all the time because he finds him "cinematic"; an alternate story the filmmakers have also told is that they'd merely planned to document the story of an online relationship (Really? Without any actual investigation into who Nev is courting?), and then Catfish's wild narrative just happened to present itself. "We weren't planning to make a film until [the discovery of the plagiarized songs]," Schulman insisted.

His claims of innocence are hard to believe. Despite the fact that there were meticulously faked Facebook pages for Abby, Megan, and Angela, a simple Google search of the Pierces blows holes in their story (especially the notion that Abby's painting made her a local celebrity), and you're telling me that a pair of young filmmakers documenting said story would never think to Google their mysterious subjects over a span of several months?


Schulman and Joost let us listen in on Nev's cursory calls with Angela and romantic calls with a strangely Angela-like Megan, but when Nev says months later that he's never spoken to precocious painter Abby on the phone -- and apparently never grew suspicious about that -- it begs credulity. Meanwhile, to go by Angela's own Facebook pictures, she looks even younger than her supposed daughter Megan. If the filmmakers didn't think that was strange, then they're truly gullible bumpkins.

And that's the thing: They're not. They're smart tech-heads who tote iPhones, brandish expensive handheld cameras, show off their American Apparel underwear, and have hundreds of friends on Facebook. Though Nev supposedly falls for Megan, it's telling that he doesn't really talk to her in his own voice; instead, the messages we see him send to her feel like snickered-over bait composed by him, his brother, and Joost. Of course, the movie's first hour couldn't consist simply of three guys coming up with ways to taunt a lonely wackadoo who's come into their orbit, so the filmmakers go overboard shooting each other's claims of surprised, open-hearted innocence. (Notably, both directors have acting credits.)

So what happened when that man in the Q&A said that he didn't think the film was a documentary? "What is it then?" Schulman sneered.

"I think it's really a faux documentary," the man replied.

Instead of asking him to explain, Schulman leapt to a conclusion. "Oh, so you're saying that my brother is the best actor in the world? Let's hear it for my brother! The next Marlon Brando, ladies and gentlemen!" he said, applauding.

The cheers Schulman led drowned out his questioner. Then, the filmmaker continued, his voice raising an octave.

"Thank you very much! Oh, and we're the best writers in Hollywood? Thank you everyone!"

With that, Schulman cut off both the Q&A and his questioner.

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