Film Review


Andrew Jarecki’s opus may have come well before he had any experience at the helm of a movie. His directorial debut, Capturing the Friedmans is a documentary, which on the surface is about a child molestation case, but under its skin is about a family’s struggle to cope.

Arnold Friedman, a well-respected teacher in the Nassau County area of Long Island, NY, is charged with obscene counts of child molestation, and as an accomplice, his then 18-year-old son, Jesse, is also faced with molestation charges. These allegations were brought to attention during the 1980s sex abuse hysteria, where communities were panicking at the idea that an adult in their neighborhood could be a potential pedophile.

It seems uncanny that this family happened to film almost everything they did together, and preserved the footage for as long as they had. Jarecki’s “neutral” approach simply gave the audience the ability to see a family unfold before their eyes. Capturing the Friedmans utilized many interviews from personnel that were on the case, be it an alleged victim, or people from the sex crime unit that dealt with this case. However, the most important aspect of the film was the footage that either one of the three Friedman sons, or Arnold himself recorded. The candid footage of family dinners and fights gave the audience an idea of what a family becomes after such heinous allegations. Personally, what struck me the most, was the mother’s relationship with her children. Elaine Friedman had always felt on the outside of what she referred to as the “Friedman gang”, because of her strict ways. But never have I seen a person so excluded and isolated from his or her own family.

Recounts of the trial, current-day interviews with significant players and family members, and the presentation of facts make for an unnerving and ambiguous documentary that left me questioning if the verdict was the right one.

If you can stomach the shocking subject matter, this film is one of the most important documentaries you will ever see. It will make you realize the importance of family as well as how easily people can turn their back on someone.



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