Documentaries / Films / Screening Culture / TV Shows

The Movies of the Catfish

Catfish (film)

Catfish (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A name you may have been hearing about a lot over the past few days is Manti Te’o;  a linebacker at the University of Notre Dame who gained much media press in 2012 because both his girlfriend (Lennay Kekua) and grandmother died in the space of one day, whilst he continued strong on the field. It turned out however that Lennay’s death, and her existence for that matter, was a hoax. Manti had supposedly met Lennay online and he had never spoken with her face to face. It turned out that the photos used of Lennay Kekua on her account were from a friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who is a friend of the Te’o family. This has resulted in a conspiracy over whether Manti was in on the hoax too.  His first on camera interview will take place on the 24th of January 2013, with Katie Couric, which might provide more insight into the truth.

‘Catfishing’ is a term used a lot in society today to describe people who lie about their identity online, much like this Manti case.  This term was coined by the shocking 2010 documentary/film, Catfish by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman which follows Ariel’s brother, Nev, as he forms a romantic relationship on Facebook. To follow up on his success, Nev has teamed up with MTV for a new reality docudrama programme, Catfish: The TV Show, which focuses on real life experiences of people who have met one another online and if their profile turned out to be accurate or false.

Since internet dating began we have heard stories of people manipulating their identity online and social networking has only enhanced this. To celebrate the launch of the Catfish TV show in the UK I’ve compiled a list of the five best movies which involve similar Catfish themes.

5. The Imposter

Number five in our list is a 2012 documentary filled with identity theft, lies and deceit. The Imposter focuses on Frenchman Frédéric Bourdin, who in 1997 impersonated a young Texas boy, Nicholas Barclay, who had disappeared when he was thirteen years old in 1994. Up to a point, Frédéric was successful in persuading Spain and US officials, alongside the Barclay’s family, that he was Nicholas who had been abducted by US personnel from Texas to Spain and he had managed to escape.  This plot seems simple at first, but it becomes complex when it turns out that there is more than we are first told and so it is difficult to know who to trust.

4. Cyberbully

‘Cyberbully’ is not exactly a movie on identity issues, but this film addressing another issue which the internet has expanded: bullying. The 2011 ABC Family production stars Emily Osment as our protagonist Taylor Hillridge whose life is going well with her crush asking her out. However, her life stars to fall apart when she joins a fictional social networking site, Cliquesters, after she receives a laptop for her seventeenth birthday. Taylor starts being bullied and it reaches to such an extent that she doesn’t want to live anymore due to the pressure. It is important for school children to watch this movie as it has an important message behind it.

3. Talhotblond

This is another really upsetting documentary made before Catfish in 2009. It follows a love triangle which took place between two co-workers who both fell in love with the same 18 year old girl on an internet chartroom whose screen name was talhotblond. This feud over the woman resulted in the death of twenty two year old Brian. Although, it turns out talhotblond might not have been what her screen name made us expect her to be.

2. Hard Candy

Ellen Page hasn’t been on our radar for quite some time, still her talents are one to be admired and this is highlighted by the 2005 indie feature, Hard Candy. David Slade, the director of Twilight’s Eclipse, first film shows fourteen year old Page meeting thirty two year old Patrick Wilson, for the first time after they have been communicating online.  You know something bad is clearly going to go down, yet the victim may turn out to be the person you least expect. The story was inspired by a 20/20 news item about Japanese girls who would lure older men to isolated areas by claiming they would offer them meaningful conversation; instead they would mug them.

1. Trust

David Schwimmer’s stint as a director has moved from British comedy, Run Fat Boy Run, to dark psychological thrillers, Trust. Also released in 2010, the film follows fourteen year old Annie Cameron who receives a laptop for her birthday and starts talking to a sixteen year old boy named Charlie online. As they continue chatting Charlie bumps his age up to 20 and then to 25, despite this Annie continues talking to him. After three months they meet one another at the mall and it turns out he is more in his forties than in his twenties. Although, instead of causing a scene; she remains with him. This is a strange story showing how you can be naive under the influence of love. Luckily this is based on a script, rather than on real experience. This movie highlights what is probably the most common factor of catfishing online: changing your age.

What is your favourite Catfish themed film? Which film do you think had the most shocking twist? Are you enjoying the new MTV Catfish TV Show?

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