Was there a more controversial film than "Cafish" in 2010?
After its premiere at Sundance in January, the documentary about -- spoiler alert! -- the dangers of the web surfed a tidal wave of hype that questioned its veracity, criticized its aesthetic and praised its bold take on life in the information age.
"Is this really a documentary?" was the question on audiences' tongues after seeing the film. "And, if not, does that take away its oomph?"
The directors survived the release press junkets committed to the film's "truthiness."
But according to The Hollywood Reporter, a lawsuit, filed this weekend in the U.S. District Court in L.A. against the filmmakers along with Universal and Relativity Media, may pull back the curtain on "Catfish" once and for all.
Here's a little info on "Catfish" the film as it applies to the case. More spoilers ahead.
Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost follow Ariel's brother Nev, a 20-something artist, as he begins a digital friendship with a family of women in Michigan. He goes gaga for the older sister Megan and decides meet her.
But things go sour when Nev notices some inconsistencies in Megan’s story. Megan claims to be a singer, sharing her songs with Nev, but he discovers these songs sound like those by other artists on YouTube.
One such song is "All Downhill From Here," by Amy Kuney, a musician signed to Spin Move Records and in no way officially connected to the film. Threshold Media Corp., the owner of Spin Move, is suing the filmmakers of "Catfish" for statutory damages and profits for the film's use of the song.
See, if "Catfish" really is a documentary, the usage would fall under fair use of the copyright. And the filmmakers would be in the clear, legally.
But if the documentary was staged, that dissolves the fair use argument.
As THR points out, "The film's producers may stick to their story that the whole thing was authentic, but they will have to do so under oath, and Threshold will enjoy a discovery proceeding to ferret out the truth."
At this rate, the director duo should be documenting the hysteria around the film. It's becoming more interesting than its launching point. And if things go south in court, another film's profit could help cover these legal fees.