Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, and with over $3 million at the box office to date, Capturing The Friedmans is nothing short of the most riveting, provocative, and hotly debated films of ... more »the year. Despite their predilection for hamming it up in front of home-movie cameras, the Friedmans were a normal middle-class family living in the affluent New York suburb of Great Neck. One Thanksgiving, as the family gathers at home for a quiet holiday dinner, their front door explodes, splintered by a police battering ram. Officers rush into the house, accusing Arnold Friedman and his youngest son Jesse of hundreds of shocking crimes. The film follows their story from the public?s perspective and through unique real footage of the family in crisis, shot inside the Friedman house. As the police investigate, and the community reacts, the fabric of the family begins to disintegrate, revealing provocative questions about truth, justice, family, and -ultimately-truth. With an abundance of exclusive DVD bonus features supplied on a second disc, Capturing the Friedmans is sure to capture you and pin you to your seat.« less
Sarah F. (Ferdy63) from DALTON, GA Reviewed on 6/8/2008...
Abslutely engrossing film about the true story of the Friedman family and its disintegration after allegations of multiple child sex abuse charges made against the Father and youngest Son. Includes a DVD with additional material on the family and the case. The family, esp. the oldest son, are home movie fanatics and much of the story is told thru their own home movies which were made before, during and after the arrest and trial. It's one of those stories, like the murder of JonBenet or the McMartin case, that is so compelling you can't stop watching. At one moment, you believe the accusers and at another, you sympathize with the defendants. I highly recommend this movie!
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RMurray847 | Albuquerque, NM United States | 07/29/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If the Friedman's hadn't been obsessed with capturing their own lives on 8mm (and video tape and audio tape), this riveting documentary wouldn't exist. I won't rehash the case under scrutiny here, except to say that it is pretty lurid, and absolutely not for children to be hearing about and watching.The amazing thing about the film is that while we are presented with the "facts" of the case, we realize that we're seeing a sort of real life Rashomon. Everyone has their version of events,and as each version is peeled away, we become angry at a different person and sympathetic for someone we never thought we'd feel sympathy for.For example, at one point we hear the "testimony" of one of the victim's of the molestation. He gets our sympathy, naturally. Later, when we his interviewed some more and we know a little more about the case, extreme doubt is cast on his story and we begin to feel suspicious towards the investigators. But, just as we might begin leaning towards believing in the innocence of the Friedmans, another bombshell is dropped on us. Towards the end, we really don't know who to believe. It's frustrating not to know anything for sure, but by God, I bet no one leaves this movie not ready to spend a lot of time talking about it and running over it in their heads. It is the most satisfying frustration you can have.The movie is also a fascinating study of the disintegration of a dysfunctional family. We see the collapse right in front of us, and we see its aftermath many years later. Wow! It's simply amazing to witness the things that were capture by the Friedmans.The movie is occasionally funny, often aggravating, often strong enough to make our blood boil or run cold...but it is never, ever dull. Truly a wonderful achievement...no review I've read captures the unusual power of this film. IT'S A MUST SEE FOR ADULTS!!!!"
My fingernails are bitten down to the nub!
Diane Moore | 07/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I walked into this documentary not knowing much about the Friedmans, as I was younger when this story surfaced. This high tension story kept me locked in and stressed out!It always starts the same: the perfect, upper middle-class family. Arnold and Elaine Friedman have three sons: David, Seth, and Jesse. He is an award winning teacher and well liked in the small community. Everything seems great from the outside. But, somehow, a lead to Arnold Friedman stems from some child pornography being traded through the mail, and that led to finding more about this "happy" family. From then on, it was alleged that Arnold Friedman and his youngest son Jesse, then 18, were molesting boys in their basement during computer classes that Arnold taught. It goes back and forth over the years. Many of the videos were shot by the Friedmans, as the father and sons were interested in using video cameras for their own entertainment. They all seemed to have a similar sense of humor, and were always joking around with each other. The sons seemed to be each others best friends. As the movie goes on, you become more and more aware of who is going to be there for whom. Enter Elaine Friedman. I had such deep sympathy for this woman. Yes, she had problems of her own. But, to have something like this happen to her family, and then, have her sons constantly gang up on her. There also seemed to be a lack of boundries within the family, as Elaine and Arnold briefly touched on their relationship in front of their sons. What I thought was a little strange: At one point, around the time that Arnold was going to court: they practically filmed their own documentary. They were talking about the case on camera. It's as if their lives centered around their video camera. I constantly found myself wondering, "Did they, or didn't they?" Unfortunately, I didn't get this question answered. I think that everyone is supposed to find their own answers. There was plenty of information through interviews with Arnold's brother, Jesse's lawyer, Elaine, David, and there was also some insight given to Arnold's childhood, and his kids memories as well. The thing is: the story is so balanced as to the people who thought it happened, and to those who thought it didn't. It's possible that your opinion could be biased after watching it, but overall, whether or not it happened, I was sure of one thing. Arnold Friedman had a very definite problem and needed help. Pedophilia is a disease that destroys people, and it destroyed Arnold Friedman and his family."
Haunting and Powerful
S. Herbertson | 03/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having being drawn to recent documentary features such as Spellbound, I took a chance on Andrew Jarecki's 'Capturing the Friedmans', having heard and read little about it. It is, without a doubt, one of the most compelling and troubling films I have ever seen. I won't re-hash the story as other reviewers have done that already, but would urge you to buy this film. Once the main feature is over you are desperate for more information, more clues and the second disc in the set goes some way to satiating that need.
The beauty of the film, expressed by Jarecki in both his commentary and in a Charlie Rose interview, is that it finally provides - albeit too late - the fair trial that the Friedmans should have been granted. Whatever the 'truth' of the story is, and we may never really know, the prejudice that was brought to bear on the case by the police, judiciary, the community and the media made it impossible for this most complicated family to be accorded their constitutional rights. We, the audience, are the jury now. Jarecki provides both prosecution and defence cases and we are left to decide the guilt.
Quite apart from the compelling material, which makes this film so much more thrilling than any Hollywood drama of recent memory, the film is beautifully shot. Jarecki exposes evidence carefully so that just when you feel that your mind is made up something is thrown in that broadsides you. Andrea Morricone's beautiful music is the perfect accompaniment to the anguish that the viewer feels throughout this painful quest for the 'truth'. The film's website (capturingthefriedmans.com)is a worthy partner to the film with some unheard audio footage, and is well worth visiting.
This is not quite an enjoyable film - the material too uncomfortable for that - but it is one that should be seen. Make sure you watch it with someone as all you will want to do afterwards is discuss it - and then you'll want to watch it again."
One of the great movies
Bill Weeden | New York, NY United States | 06/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Almost unbearable to sit through, this mind-blowing documentary puts you right in the middle of the crisis of a family for which the word dysfunctional was coined--an already splitting-at-the-seams clan whose tenuous hold is shaken forever by the seemingly trumped-up child-molestation charges against the mild-mannered father and one of the sons. A documentary which has been molded with Errol Morris-like genius by a first-time (!) filmmaker named Andrew Jarecki, it reads like the best fiction film in years. It instantly makes my top-ten all-time film list, and stands so clearly in the forefront of 2003 films that there is literally no competition. The ambiguity of the case is brilliantly mirrored by the no-judgment quality of the storytelling. The movie is spellbinding, breathtaking, and...great."
Uncomfortable, Provocative, Compelling
Diane Moore | 02/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In advance, it is helpful to know that this documentary originally was intended to be a light-hearted piece about professional birthday-party clowns in Manhattan, but the familial heavy baggage of one of its primary subjects, oldest son David Friedman, led to this darker and more compelling story of a family destroyed by human flaws and fate. The viewer can opine whether the cost to these individuals was appropriate and justified. And the viewer also can become emotionally invested in whether any redemption or restitution is still in the future for members of this family. "Capturing the Friedmans" is a short synthesis of many hours of available documentation from multiple sources, reflecting snowballing events that occurred over months and years during the mid to late 1980s in Long Island, New York. In the shadow of the California "McMartin pre-school" alleged sexual abuse scandal, the somewhat unassuming and admired schoolteacher/musician Arnold Friedman was caught by postal examiners receiving and sending pedophilia pornography. This aberration evolved during Arnie's childhood, was acted on to at least a limited degree twice in adulthood, and was a source of guilt and worry to him with respect to his own three sons. A subsequent zealous investigation resulted in Arnie and youngest son Jesse, 18, being accused of sexually abusing many young boys during home computer classes. Under conditions interpreted as nearly hopeless for the defense, both ultimately felt forced to plead guilty to hundreds of counts of abuse. Jesse was recently freed after serving 13 years of a 6-18 year sentence. After an insurance provision was satisfied wherein Jesse would be the beneficiary, Arnold committed suicide in 1995 during his 10-30 year prison term.The film addresses perceptions of reality as related to association, persuasion, selective memory, exaggeration, groupthink, and mass hysteria. It is unforgettable* and provokes strong and contradictory opinions, an indication of the film's strength and balance and of its construction and editing. People will even argue passionately about the "true" meaning of the title without coming to agreement on which is "right."
(* but what each person focuses on and remembers from the film is as variable as the memories of those involved in the original events!)Apparently the first cut of the film was more than 5 hours in length, and presumably just a portion of such edited material is included on the companion DVD. Understandably, a limited number of principle parties were interested in participating in this documentary - whether anonymously or identified - with personal and professional credibility at stake and with the cushion of time upon which to reflect and reevaluate. Middle son Seth Friedman declined involvement. Watching the film is a bit like sitting through an abbreviated version of trials that never occurred, with a few needed short breaks thrown in. But less like a courtroom, the film alternately weaves plaintiff and defendant evidence and testimony in a manner that keeps the viewer "jury" both alert and interested. We certainly are influenced by the filmmakers' decisions of what to include in the final edit and the order in which the material is presented, just as we would be with courtroom decisions over what evidence and testimony could even be introduced. We also see background material that we likely would never see in a courtroom setting.I believe that the director pursued this documentary, a tangent of his original intended subject matter, without prejudice and that he did a good job of presenting a succinct and balanced perspective (a "Cliff's Notes" version of the story). Some of the evidence speaks for itself, and other things are more ambiguous. The demeanor and interview presentation of one anonymous alleged victim, from whom a significant number of the charges originated after his post-hypnotic "recollections," was not staged to influence the viewer. One alleged victim's testimony would require that he had been molested approximately once every thirty minutes during all the time he spent in the Friedman home. In an included Charlie Rose interview, the director admits that he felt as though all parties he interviewed had a personal "agenda" except perhaps for Jesse himself. We, the viewers, don't really know the significance or importance of material not included in the film and extra disk. Although the director does not admit a personal stand on the total "truth" in this story, he does express affection for this very imperfect family whom he got to know quite well over the 3-year project life. Auxiliary film footage after a Tribeca (NYC) premier showing of the film captures questions and discussion from an audience that included many of the principles interviewed in the documentary. Emotions still run high. Yours probably will, too. I hope the film wins an Oscar. By the way, if you can't tell, after about 8 hours of watching this material, I did form an opinion. I tend to believe that the particular events for which Arnold and Jesse were arrested and charged never occurred. Beyond that, I'd rather not judge."