Image courtesy of Rogue
Initiating a relationship over the Internet is an age-old tale and I have friends who have successfully trodden this path, viagra dosage no rx but not without some initial trepidation. There’s always the joke about boys being deluded about their height, unhealthy often adding an inch or four to their profiles (or being axe-murderers), and girls uploading old photos when they were a good few pounds lighter (or being bunny boilers). But beyond the aesthetics, how much do you really know about your online confidante? And on the flipside, how far are you willing to stretch the truth to ensure that you are presenting yourself in the best light?
Produced by filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, who directed the brilliant docufilm “Capturing the Friedmans” in 2003, Catfish is the directorial feature film debut of Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, who explore these themes, human psychology and the modern technological landscape as a medium for communication, closely following a ‘virtual’ relationship as it unfolds over Facebook and phone calls. Made with a budget of only around $30,000, the film was an unlikely hit at the Sundance Film Festival last year, which had audience members and critics alike hyperventilating with excitement.
Illustration courtesy of Avril Kelly
When I received my invite to the press screening, I was urged to read as little about Catfish as possible to avoid spoiling my experience of the film. As I would urge you to do the same, I can tell you that writing this review is going to prove difficult but here goes…
Filmed using a grainy handheld camera, the story revolves around the film’s protagonist, Nev Schulman, a young, charismatic, sleepy-eyed New-York based photographer who becomes involved, via Facebook, with an eight-year-old art prodigy named Abby in Michigan. Abby approaches Nev to ask for his permission to use a photograph for a painting and a fraternal relationship ensues between Nev and Abby, which becomes increasingly complex as Nev becomes involved with the rest of her family: Abby’s mother, Angela, and Abby’s attractive horse-riding, guitar-playing, party-loving 19-year-old sister, Megan, along with Megan’s intricate network of friends. Needless to say, a less fraternal relationship develops between Nev and Megan and before we know it, they are “sexting”, amalgamating naked photos of themselves and speaking every night via the plethora of the networking tools that we have at our disposal today. Nothing, however, is quite as it seems as the film takes several unexpected twists and turns to reach a not entirely surprising yet poignant conclusion.
Illustration courtesy of Avril Kelly
One of the film’s key strengths lies in Nev’s engaging hopeless romantic, drawing empathy from his viewers as we are taken on a journey of his evolving feelings for Megan and her family. Throughout the course of the film, we see Nev experience infatuation, doubt, anger, disappointment, betrayal and then sympathy – feelings of which are all doubtless familiar to us, whether in the virtual or real world. The way in which the film is shot, where Nev talks about his thoughts and feelings directly to the camera as if we were talking to a family member or a close friend (fitting really seeing as Schulman is Nev’s brother and Joost is one of his best friends), makes us feel as if we are sharing a very private experience with Nev, helping us to bond and identify with his character.
Where David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s “The Social Network” is about the creation of Facebook, Catfish is a film about the consequences of such creations, which may explain why its subject matter has resonated so strongly with audiences, seeing as approximately 5 billion of us across the globe are subscribed to a mobile phone contract and 500 million of us are active users of Facebook (although I exclude myself from the latter).
Illustration courtesy of Avril Kelly
At the risk of revealing too much, “Catfish” goes far deeper than simply being “another film about Facebook”. It throws up moral questions such as to what extent one can indulge in what superficially appears to be harmless innocent fantasies before we start to infringe on the wellbeing of others. This issue, however, is not strictly confined to the realms of an online environment, although it can be argued that modern technological advances, especially social networking, has made this deception somewhat easier to play out and sustain.
There has been much debate about the authenticity of “Catfish” and I for one am not completely convinced that we are not being taken for a ride, however, regardless of whether the movie is a hoax, Catfish is an absorbing, thought-provoking and affecting indie about hope, crushed dreams and the society that we live in where social media and modern technology provides a platform for our inner-narcissist, potential to deceive or desire to escape reality to a fictional world where life is more kind. In Joost’s own words, “Our profiles are a chance to present ourselves to the world in a way we can completely control – unlike face-to-face interaction”.
Read our exclusive interview with the director of Catfish, Henry Joost, here.
Catfish is currently showing at selected cinemas across the UK and available on DVD from today.
Ariel “Rel” Schulman (left) and Henry Joost (right); illustration courtesy of Matilde Sazio
The co-directors of Sundance favourite Catfish, for sale Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, page met in high school and have been filmmaking partners since 2006. Together they founded the New York City production company Supermarché and have produced award-winning advertisements and documentaries for well-known companies and institutions, this including Nike, American Express, Harvard Business School, Pitchfork Media and The National Scrabble Association. As an acknowledgement of their talent, the duo’s web short “What’s the Big Idea“, starring Danny DeVito, was nominated for a Webby in 2008.
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Joost spent most of his childhood travelling the world with his mother, a photographer, and his father, an international banker. He is still an avid traveller and collector of cameras, which he uses to capture both film and still.
To celebrate the release of Catfish, Joost talks exclusively to Amelia’s Magazine about the inspiration behind the film, his views on social networking and the emotional rocky road he shared with the Schulman brothers (Nev, the film’s protagonist and Ariel, co-director), from the moment the cameras started rolling…
Illustration courtesy of Matilde Sazio
How was the initial idea for ‘Catfish’ conceived? What made you start filming Nev in the first place?
From my perspective the film began as one of Rel’s pet projects that I became increasingly interested in. When Nev and Abby’s story became like a living soap opera I joined in, filming Nev as well. We have a deal with each other and with our friends that it’s ok to film all the time. We keep a personal record of our lives with these little HD cameras we keep in our pockets. Sometimes it turns into something but more often than not the footage lives on a hard-drive, unwatched.
Did you have any expectations when you started filming?
Rel had an instinct that he was shooting what could become a charming short film about two artists meeting on the internet and inspiring each other. Or just another strange episode in his brother’s life. That’s enough for us to go on. It was only after 8 months of filming sporadically in the midst of our busy lives, that we realized that true nature of the story we were telling.
What makes Nev compelling as a protagonist? Why should we care what happens to him?
Nev is compelling to me because he’s one of my best friends and plays a huge part in my life. I think he has a natural charisma that people connect with. He wears his heart on his sleeve and he’s not afraid to expose himself, which people respect. In Catfish he’s an everyman. We’re all looking for connections online, hoping to find love, friendship, or inspiration.
How did you find your directorial relationship with Ariel evolve over the course of filming? Were there any debates at any stage in how you wanted to approach things?
Rel and I have been working together for about 6 years now, so we have a natural and largely unspoken dynamic. I think our personalities complement each other and we rarely disagree. My role was often to keep the peace between the two brothers.
Illustration courtesy of Matilde Sazio
What was the most challenging thing about filming ‘Catfish’?
The most difficult thing for me was balancing making the film with fear for my personal safety, although that fear turned out to be unfounded. There is a moment in the film that was the scariest of my life, but I felt emboldened by the camera and knowing that we were on a quest for truth.
Has Nev’s experience made you more cautious of social networking?
I was cautious about social networking to start with, so this has only confirmed my suspicions. Although the contradictory effect of the film is that I’m also much more open to people I meet online now, because those people could turn out to be real friends or collaborators.
Do you think social networking has served to strengthen or weaken the depth of the relationships that we build with people?
I don’t think it’s possible to have more than a few close friends with or without Facebook. Social networking has allowed us to maintain more superficial relationships than ever before with incredible speed and ease, but I don’t think it particularly affects our few real relationships.
I don’t have a Facebook account – can you give me one fool-proof reason why I should join?
Wouldn’t you like to know what your boyfriend from 8th grade looks like now?
SPOILER ALERT!! READ ON ONLY IF YOU HAVE SEEN THE FILM…
Illustration courtesy of Aysim Genc
Prior to the revelatory moment where Nev discovers that ‘Megan’ has uploaded Suzanna Choffel’s version of Tennessee Stud as her own, did you at any point have any suspicions about Megan and her family? Did anything seem odd to you?
We did have suspicions at first. It seemed strange that this artist was giving her valuable paintings away for free. But suspicions about a potential financial scam were assuaged when Angela sent Nev a check for $500 – half of the winnings from an art contest Abby won with a painting of one of Nev’s photos. Suspicions were always addressed in a clever way or buried under a mountain of contradictory evidence.
Illustration courtesy of Aysim Genc
What were you most surprised about when you first met Angela?
I was completely surprised by Angela. We imagined a lot of scenarios, but in my wildest imagination I don’t think I could have ever conjured up Angela in all of her complexity. More surprising still was how well we all got along so well.
What were your own feelings towards Angela initially and did they change as you got to know her better?
I expected to meet some kind of villain behind all of this deception, so it was a relief to meet Angela. We found her to be fun, smart, and engaging and were happy that she and Vince really welcomed us into their lives.
Illustration courtesy of Aysim Genc
Is there a message you’d like viewers to go away with after having seen ‘Catfish’?
I think one of the great things about the film is that everyone brings their own experiences into the theater with them, and walks away with a different message. I would hate to color that in any way with my own personal opinion.
Do you think there is an element of Angela in all of us in how we go about presenting ourselves in the ‘virtual world’?
I think we all curate our online personae and what Angela did is incredibly relatable. Who among us has not de-tagged a photo, or agonized about our “interests” or “relationship status” on Facebook? Our profiles are a chance to present ourselves to the world in a way we can completely control – unlike face-to-face interaction.
Read our review of Catfish here.
Catfish is out at selected cinemas across the UK now and available on DVD from Monday 10th January.
Best Albums of 2010 by LJG Art & Illustration.
Last year I discovered a whole slew of marvellous new albums. So I thought I would round them up before we got too far into 2011 – some I have already reviewed, approved and some I meant to review but didn’t get around to it, sildenafil thereby giving me the perfect opportunity to do so now. Without further ado here are my picks of 2010.
Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou by Abigail Nottingham.
Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou – England
We’ve been championing this duo in various musical guises over the years… and their current husband and wife incarnation perfectly suits the harmonic beauty of their unique song-writing. England is a beautiful folk album that brings a modern flavour to age old tales of “peas, mash and pie” and “the catch of the day.” They have been working on a new album over the past few months and they start their extensive Tin Tabernacle tour soon, full listing here. Last summer they blew me away when they played an impromptu gig with Danny and the Champions of the World at our Climate Camp stage at Glastonbury. Make sure you catch up with them.
I Like Trains – He Who Saw The Deep
I first fell in love with the historical tales of iliketrains many years ago when I featured them in the print version of Amelia’s Magazine. Since then they have become I Like Trains (small but crucial difference), parted with their label and lost cornet player Ashley Dean – who has since created a fab video for Our Broken Garden which you can read about here. The crowd funded new album He Who Saw The Deep retains the gravelly baritone voice of lead singer David Martin but ditches the historical references in favour of a stirring elegy to the perils of an uncertain future “as Europe slips into the sea”. They go on tour at the start of February. Full listing info here.
The Golden Filter by Daria Hlazatova.
The Golden Filter – Voluspa
This album didn’t register on my radar until I saw The Golden Filter play live at Secret Garden Party in 2010. But here lies a clear case of an impressive live performance translating equally well into a recorded version – thereafter I’ve listened to Voluspa on a regular basis. It is impossible to find any information about The Golden Filter on the internet because they have done their best to maintain an aura of mystery around them akin to the swirling atmosphere that surrounds singer Penelope Trappes during their live performances. Other reviews have not been so kind about the hazy noodlings of the album experience but I love listening to it as a whole.
The Pipettes – Earth Vs The Pipettes
In 2010 The Pipettes staged a come back with a very different flavour to their last studio album, (read our interview with them here). This time the line up features sisters Gwenno and Ani, and they’ve taken a distinctly dancey turn away from their 50′s doo-wap inspired songs… whilst still retaining their deliciously girly harmonies. This should be a good year for this truly independent pop band, starting with their DJing spot for their irresistibly bouncy tunes at my launch party for ACOFI at the end of January. After which they will be guesting on the new Does it Offend You Yeah? album. You wouldn’t find the Sugababes doing that now would you?
Our Broken Garden by Faye West.
Our Broken Garden – Golden Sea
Bella Union rarely puts a foot wrong, and Golden Sea by Our Broken Garden is no exception… an absolutely stunning album that I have listened to over and over and over again. If you get a chance to see Anna Bronsted perform live TAKE IT immediately. Her gig at St. Giles-in-the-Fields was one of the most magical performances I have ever seen. You can read my review here.
6 Day Riot by Jenny Lloyd.
6 Day Riot – On This Island
Self released on their own label, 6 Day Riot are a prime example of an uber talented band doing it for themselves. As singer Tamara candidly writes on their blog it’s hard work to get yourself heard when you are up against the promotional purchasing powers of the major labels, a fact which as an independent publisher I know only too well. On This Island is an incredibly rich and rewarding album and 6 Day Riot are just as much fun live. I can’t wait for them to play at my launch party for Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration.
Motorifik – Secret Things
Despite a pretty terrible name – calling to mind, perhaps, Jeremy Clarkson loving rockers – Anglo-french twosome Motorifik won me over towards the end of 2010 with their 90s influenced shoegaze crossed with dance beats. Well worth checking out if you like your indie music lushly melodic.
Peggy Sue – Fossils and Other Phantoms
Combining indie, folk, doo-wop and blues, this was my stand out favourite album at the start of 2010. The two girls in this three piece line up take turns on lead vocals, singing of complex love lives with heart rending passion. You can read my review here.
Napoleon IIIrd by Kiran Patel at Illustrating Rain
Napoleon IIIrd – Christiania
Starting with an intense splash of impassioned vocals yelped against a backdrop of reverberating beats, Christiania means business from the get go. Previous album In Debt To gained Napoleon IIIrd a coveted profile in the printed version of Amelia’s Magazine and this latest release does not disappoint, taking on board influences from genres as diverse as balearic beats, woozy cosmic pop and big bands. It comes out on the Brainlove label, home of all things eclectic and wonderful. Excitingly you can see both Napoleon IIIrd and I Like Trains together when they go on tour this February.
Malachai – Ugly Side of Love
Flying the flag for totally out there psychedelia is Bristol based Malachai. Ugly Side of Love is a wonderful stoner concoction recently given the blessing of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow. Malachai mash up stomping rock riffs, crashing moogs and sampled loops – it’s totally mental and I bloody love it. You can read our review here.
Laura Marling by Yelena Bryksenkova.
Other albums that I loved probably need no further promoting as they will have done well on more mainstream “best of” lists but I will give them a brief mention here. Following a storming tour of the festival circuit Villagers‘ Becoming a Jackal did incredibly well and was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Read my review here. Perhaps inevitably Laura Marling‘s I Speak Because I Can has also done brilliantly…. because it is brilliant. What can I say? Laura is amazing. And of course you could read about her many years ago in Amelia’s Magazine, which ran one of her first interviews in print. Read our review here. The Irrepressibles finally released their incredible album Mirror Mirror, which I was lucky enough to discover several years ago when I put them in the print issue of the magazine. Read our review here.
Sea of Bees by Gemma Birss.
Helen Martin has already mentioned Mountain Man, Sea of Bees (tour listing here) and This Is The Kit albums in her excellent round up… and I loved them all too. She has great taste so I’m sure her other nominations are fabulous too, but I must confess that I haven’t heard them all for myself. Which is just as well because it left me space for this little round up.
I do hope you’ll support these incredibly talented musicians by splashing out on one or two of these releases, most of which have come out on tiny labels for the love of music. As for what to look out for in the coming year? I’ll be giving you my low down shortly… watch this space.
Categories ,6 Day Riot, ,Abigail Nottingham, ,album, ,Anna Brønsted, ,Becoming a Jackal, ,Bella Union, ,Brainlove Records, ,Brille Records, ,Christiania, ,Climate Camp, ,Danny and the Champions of the World, ,Daria Hlazatova, ,David Martin, ,Does it Offend You Yeah?, ,Earth vs The Pipettes, ,England, ,Faye West, ,Fortuna Pop, ,Fossils and Other Phantoms, ,Gemma Birss, ,Geoff Barrow, ,glastonbury, ,Golden Sea, ,He Who Saw The Deep, ,Helen Martin, ,I Like Trains, ,iliketrains, ,Illustrating Rain, ,Indigo Moss, ,Jenny Lloyd, ,Jeremy Clarkson, ,Kiran Patel, ,Laura Marling, ,LJG Art & Illustration, ,Loose Music, ,Malachai, ,Moto, ,Motorifik, ,Mountain Man, ,Napoleon IIIrd, ,On This Island, ,Our Broken Garden, ,Peggy Sue, ,Portishead, ,review, ,Sea of Bees, ,Secret Things, ,Tantrum, ,The Golden Filter, ,the irrepressibles, ,The Pipettes, ,This Is The Kit, ,Tin Tabernacle Tour, ,Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou, ,Ugly Side Of Love, ,Villagers, ,Voluspa, ,Wichita Recordings, ,Yelena Bryksenkova