'Fraud': Film Review

Courtesy of MEMORY
A shaggy-dog editing experiment that was probably much more interesting to make than it is to watch.
1/20/2017

Dean Fleischer-Camp dives into a stranger's vast YouTube archive and comes out with a fictional tale of insurance fraud.

It's hard to imagine who the intended audience is for Fraud, Dean Fleischer-Camp's found-footage collage that weaves a fictional, and not at all involving, crime yarn out of amateur YouTube videos that purportedly have nothing to do with the fabricated narrative. When shown previously at documentary venues including Hot Docs, some viewers mused enthusiastically about how it exposed the inherent manipulations of cinema (very old news, surely, to anyone attending such events); others grew angry, accusing the filmmaker of being a con artist. In its art house release, though, one suspects most viewers will respond with a shrug, if they sit through it at all.

Promotional and press material for the film is exasperatingly vague, saying only that "a colossal trove of innocuous uploads to YouTube" is the source of Fraud's narrative, in which two young parents go on shopping sprees, flee credit-card debt and then burn down their own house to collect on a large insurance policy. But viewers actually witness the fire being started, see the $82K insurance check and watch the couple read news reports saying a warrant has been issued for their arrest. How exactly is that "innocuous"?

If Fraud presented its fabrication, then followed up with whatever bits of unmanipulated footage might explain itself, some moviegoers would find the exercise worthwhile. But nothing in the film itself acknowledges the source or the actual nature of these scenes. So we're left with what might as well be a garden-variety example of the increasingly tedious found-footage genre, one whose rapid-fire editing and ugly handheld camerawork are more annoying than usual.

Director-screenwriter: Dean Fleischer-Camp
Producers: Riel Roch-Decter, Sebastian Pardo
Executive producers: David Gordon Green, Jody Hill, Danny McBride, Brandon James
Editor: Jonathan Rippon

Not rated, 53 minutes

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