CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS
Award winning teacher Arnold Friedman and his wife Elaine raised three sons (Jesse, David, Seth) in the affluent Long Island suburb of Great Neck. On the eve of Thanksgiving 1987, when Jesse was 18, police raided the quiet home with a search warrant, looking for child pornography. In the convoluted investigation that followed, Arnold and Jesse were both charged with sexually abusing several 8 and 10 year old boys who came to Arnold's computer classes in his basement office over a four year period. The police relied solely on the statements of the deposed children of the local community and had no physical evidence. The Friedman family claimed their innocence, but began to disintegrate. Yet they made a home video recording these tumultuous times.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Half way through Capturing the Friedmans, it occurred to me that I was actually watching a unique, well constructed and satirical mockumentary. This story is so bizarre and so preposterous on several levels that I wish I was right. Sadly, it's all true. Well, true in that it isn't a mock doco, but a real doco - but truth is in fact what this story really explores through the experiences of this family. Truth as water, that is.
As the film unfolds, we are thrown mercilessly from the red corner to the blue corner. One minute we register shock at the flimsy nature of the evidence which is used to bring Arnold and Jesse to court, and the next we're questioning their claims of innocence. Meanwhile, we're also being skittled sideways by the nature of the family's internal relationships. In emotional terms, the film is like the craziest wild ride at a fun fair.
And in the process, we begin to question everything we imagined as firm about our memories and truth and the view we have of other people. On one level, the film damns America's justice system; the style of the investigation bullied the kids into answers the police wanted. And Judge Abby Boklan had no compunction about the guilt of the accused, despite the lack of solid evidence. On the other hand, there is a small fire which gave rise to the smoke . . .
In terms of the filmmaking crafts, Capturing the Freidmans is not flawless, bit its subject matter excuses its structural flaws and its trite passage near the end where we see nostalgia-soaked home video footage of the boys as kids on swings, played in slo-mo under cloying music. It's a short sequence that adds only an unnecessary package of sentimentality to the film at that point and I wish it had been left out, but it doesn't mar the film's enormous impact. The impact comes from both the nature of the criminal investigation and its results, but also from the drama of the family's journey in unchartered emotional waters.
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CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS (MA)
CAST: Documentary with Arnold Friedman, Elaine Friedman, David Friedman, Seth Friedman, Jesse Friedman, Howard Friedman, John McDermott, Det. Frances Galasso, Joseph Onorato, Judd Maltin, Abbey Boklan
PRODUCER: Andrew Jarecki, Marc Smerling
DIRECTOR: Andrew Jarecki
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Adolfo Doring
EDITOR: Richard Hankin
MUSIC: Andrea Morricone
PRODUCTION DESIGN: N/a
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 25, 2004