Catfish….a lesson in film marketing
In what may just be the most misleading film marketing campaign of all time, Catfish arrives off the back of a trailer which makes this documentary look downright terrifying. So it comes as no surprise that many have walked into this film expecting a Blair Witch-type nail-biter, only to walk out demanding their money back.
It’s a damn shame too. The marketing idiot who decided to blatantly try to trick moviegoers into believing Catfish is a suspense thriller (when it clearly is not), has done more damage to the film that it deserves. The first rule of film marketing for our current savvy generation of movie-goers should be simple; “Don’t mislead the paying customer”. A cheap attempt like this may get a few more bums on seats in the short-term, but in time, pissing off an audience can create bad word-of-mouth and only hurt a film’s profitability and shelf life.
What should have been considered a biting commentary on our modern-day obsession with online social networking, and the consequences of a world in which technology is traveling faster than we have the time to stop and truly grasp its benefits and dangers, Catfish may instead become simply known as, “That misleading piece of shit”. Given its subject matter and the message Catfish ultimately sends, the decision to portray the film as something it is not shows a knuckle-headed irony that almost defies belief.
So Catfish has divided audiences. Those who were tricked by its dodgy marketing are too angry to contemplate whether the film was any good. If you deceive the paying customer, you make them feel stupid. The end result can only be anger or hate, no matter how good the film may be. On the flip-side are the rest of us; those who ignored the dubious marketing and allowed the film to run its course without preconceived expectations. We saw it differently.
Catfish is a “sign of the times” documentary that is buoyed by the charm of its lead, the mystery of its climax and the strangeness – perhaps even underlying sadness – of its conclusion. It’s a unique experience.
Having said that, there is a temptation to over-analyze the documentary and question its authenticity. There are some fundamental issues that, if you are anything like me, may have you scratching your head and wondering if the three young men behind the film were completely honest, or if there was some serious manipulation with the facts going on here. It doesn’t change my personal enjoyment of the film at all, but I know there are some people who would be suspicious and dismissive from the get-go.
Your enjoyment of Catfish will depend on how you go into it. I suggest you know as little about it as possible for the best results.
By Adam Fay
Read more film reviews by Adam at http://iseefilms.wordpress.com