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How to Completely Bastardize An Effective Documentary

It’s been over a month, but I finally got around to watching the 20/20 documentary for Catfish. I thought the film was really powerful and an effective look at the implications of inter-personal relationships in an online age (more thoughts here). The 20/20 episode basically gives away the entire plot of the film, a lot of whose value is predicated on the minute discoveries that one encounters while going through the protagonist’s journey.

I’m not sure what the circumstances were behind the creation of this episode. Did the 20/20 people pitch the filmmakers? Or vice versa? Whatever the case, the filmmakers undoubtedly agreed in order to give much-needed publicity to their small, low-budget, limited release movie. But at what cost does this publicity come? By giving away all the story beats in a 44-minute 20/20 episode, complete with ultra-generic newsdoc voiceover narration, aren’t you cutting off your nose to spite your face? Aren’t you obviating the need to see the movie? Perhaps, but maybe some people will see it and think, “Hey, I should buy a ticket for that!” I doubt it will be that many, though.

Spoilers for Catfish follow:

The 20/20 documentary does have some value in that it features interviews with Angela, as well as the “Real” Megan Faccio. These offer insights into the post-Catfish reaction of these characters, insights that the film obviously can’t give.

In addition, the entire 20/20 episode makes for an interesting comparison. If you watch both the movie and this episode, you’re basically seeing the same story told in two different ways. Which one is more effective, and why? (My vote is definitely for Catfish).