Wow – what can I say, I thought this was an amazing film documentary. Nev Schulman, a hip New York photographer in his twenties, shares a loft with two filmmakers – his brother Ariel and their friend Henry Joost. They document dance events.
Abby an 8 year old girl, who like painting, contacts Nev via myspace to ask if she can paint one of his published ballet photos. He writes back to encourage her. She sends him the finished painting and a letter from herself and her mum. Nev start a correspondence with Abby and her mother sends more paintings. They are pretty good for an eight year old so his friends begin to document the story.
Then Abbys older sister Megan contacts Nev. She is nineteen beautiful and a musician. She sends some songs. They start to chat online. Over nine months they become closer via the net and phone and there’s an attraction between them. Nev falls for Megan and her family, but are they all they seem? The friends decide to take an impromptu road trip to their small town and find out.
After watching for about ten minutes I pretty much guessed how things were going to pan out in terms of the ‘mystery’ and although the trailer and some scenes make this out as some kind of serial killer scenario it most definitely isn’t.
Though it’s obvious who the deceiver will turn out to be what is most amazing is her genuine likeable character and also how her real family is easily as interesting as the one she created on the internet.
The filmmakers by contrast seem to be more cynical and worldly. So much so that you start to question whether they have worked out the deception and are just exploiting this peach of a story that has fallen into their lap. Parts of the film feel staged and have lead to accusations that events have been recreated and altered or that the whole thing is a fake documentary.
Whether this is true or not it only adds more layers to what is a truly riveting tale about deception and fakery. There are so many levels and judgments woven into the story almost unconciously. Everyone manufactures their personality to some extent on line but – how much is real and how much is fake? When everyone’s faking to some extent -where is the moral centre? Which deception is worse – the one for profit or the emotional one? Why does society think it’s better to be a young NY hipster artist than a small town painter and housewife? Is it acceptable to fake scenes in a documentary?