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Capturing the Friedmans (17-Jan-2003)

Director: Andrew Jarecki

Keywords: Documentary, True Crime, Rape, Prison

REVIEWS

Review by anonymous (posted on 14-Feb-2005)

Engrossing documentary about a seemingly ordinary Long Island family that fell apart in 1988 after the father, Arnold, was caught with gay child pornography, and subsequently was arrested -- along with his 18-year-old son, Jesse -- for several counts of child molestation (Arnold taught computers to a number of preteen boys for a couple of years). The film is less an account of the events than a Rashomon-like examination of the subjectivity of personal experience, how one person's truth is another person's lie. Adding another layer of reality -- or surreality -- are the home movies that Arnold's oldest son David shot before, during and after the trial. Because of the subject matter, this can be dark, troubling stuff, but neither the film nor the family are off-putting. In fact, all three Friedman boys and their father seem like nice, good-humored people. The battle over the guilt of the father, and of the youngest son, takes a back seat to what seems to be a bigger and far more complicated war between the easy-going men of the family and the isolated, emotionally cool mother, Elaine. Andrew Jarecki - who, as a trivial aside, also invented Moviefone -- shows himself to be an adept documentary filmmaker: his film brings up as many issues about family, sexuality and the legal system as it confronts, and there are more twists and turns in the narrative than a Hitchcock picture. In the end you start wondering just what is the truth behind this horrible crime, or if there is such a thing as "one" truth to measure. My own feelings are that Arnold and Jesse Friedman were probably unjustly accused, but there are enough disturbing details to throw that situation into a more cosmic sense of guilt and justice. A fascinating family portrait, well worth seeing.


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