Sundance title 'Catfish' finds buyers

Relativity, Rogue pick up lo-fi documentary

Relativity Media and Rogue Pictures have finally hooked "Catfish."

The lo-fi documentary, which unfolds as a Web-based romantic mystery, surprised and intrigued audiences and potential distributors alike when it premiered at the Library Center Theatre during the Sundance Film Festival nearly two weeks ago. A handful of buyers circled the film during the fest, and CAA, which repped the filmmakers, had set up numerous screenings back in L.A. in the days since the fest ended -- on studio lots and in executives' homes.

The deal, which includes U.S., Canadian and U.K. distribution rights, closed after all-night negotiations between Relativity and CAA. Ultimately, director Brett Ratner championed the film at Relativity and helped convince the parties to make the deal. He will executive produce, along with Relativity's Ryan Kavanaugh and Tucker Tooley, and stay involved through the film's release, which is planned for late in the year through Rogue.

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Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, "Catfish" follows Schulman's brother Yaniv, a New York photographer who becomes involved with a Michigan family composed of a mother and father, older sister and an 8-year-old girl named Abby who mysteriously sends Nev paintings of his photo work. Much of the developing cyber-romance between Nev and Abby's sister Megan takes place via texting, YouTube, phone and Facebook as the film explores the delicate mysteries of 21st-century human communication and connection. That the film then turns into a suspenseful narrative with an unexpectedly poignant comment on shattered dreams invoked bountiful praise from audiences.

Andrew Jarekci and Marc Smerling, who directed and produced the similarly disturbing "Capturing the Friedmans," produced "Catfish."

" 'Catfish' is a film that could never have been made even just a few years ago," said Jarecki. "It is a product of our generation, of miniature flip cameras, ‘sexting' and social networking. Rogue Pictures has the attitude, irreverence and wide distribution to get this film seen by the masses. Moviegoers will be charmed by it, but more importantly, they will see themselves in it."