Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

Plot: Documentary on the Friedman's, a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.

My Review and Thoughts:

Capturing the Friedmans is a 2003 documentary chronicling the 1980s investigation of child molestation and child pornography against Arnold Friedman and his son Jessie Friedman. This is a deep dark interesting and odd documentary chronicling one family's journey into the aftermath of hidden secrets that come to light.

It all started when Arnold Friedman received a child pornography magazine sent from the Netherlands. A sting operation began and a warrant was served on the Friedmans house. The police found magazines upon magazines of child pornography. They learned that Arnold Friedman also taught computer classes to the local children in his basement. Soon police start an investigation and interview the children. The children stated that Arnold would play a lot of sexual games in the classes with them.

Now here is where it gets interesting and controversy. Some of the children are interviewed for the documentary, some of those kids stated that Arnold never touched the kids that said they were touched. They were in the class while the kids said it was happening. The documentary takes two different sides, one the investigation is real, two it's a witch hunt of Arnold Friedman and Jessie Friedman.

There is no disputing Arnold did possess child pornography. Now through the trial and during the awaiting of the trial home videos were recorded of the dinners, conversations, arguments, these videos showcase the wife Elaine believing that her husband is guilty and the kids are against her. She goes on and on about wanting him to confess. These tapes were never meant to be seen or placed inside a documentary. That is what makes this so fascinating because years later these videos would create the basis of this documentary. 

All these home videos of the process of the family going through this is placed in this documentary making it truly reality-based as you see from beginning to the end on what happens to the Friedmans. You watch as the documentary unfolds, the start, the middle, all the climactic ending.

As the truth unfolds before you this is a disturbing film that showcases the heart ache in the horror in the aftermath of what child-abuse can create and cost. The destruction of family, friends and the human soul is it's payment.

I think what is the most stark moments about the documentary is witnessing the interview with those family members that were not involved in the child abuse such as David and Elaine the wife. You can see there pain or suffering and trying to understand the ordeal. Trying figure out who their father/husband really was and what the truth really is. This film was nominated for an Academy award in 2003 for best documentary.

I think what's really interesting is how this film got started. The director Andrew Jarecki did not set out to create a movie about child-abuse. He set out to create a movie about children birthday party entertainers and David Friedman came to light as a clown in New York. Upon filming David he finds out that his father Arnold and his brother Jesse are both convicted child molesters.

This low-budget indie documentary took the movie world by storm making over $3 million at the box office being nominated for an Academy award, being ranked at number seven best film in 2003. This documentary won the Grand Jury Prize at 2003 Sundance film Festival.

What gets troublesome and difficult for the viewer is how the mystery of the documentary unfolds. You the viewer have to use the guess work. You have to come to the realization what is the truth? Is Arnold and Jesse guilty of child molestation of the kids during the computer classes or are they innocent? Are they railroaded by the witch hunts of the 1980s or is one guilty and one innocent or are both guilty?

Those are the hard questions that this documentary might leave you with. Its a bittersweet feeling trying to figure out yourself. Whatever the case this is a very touchy subject. Very difficult to watch at times. Very oddly entertaining. Truly a one-of-a-kind documentary that shines in the drama department, that focuses on the mystery that showcases the families struggle.

It's a landmark documentary; it's one of the greatest. One of the greatest documentaries ever created because it does everything a documentary should do. It showcases the concept of the story. The in between. The what-ifs. The aftermath is thick in feelings and it leaves the viewer guessing. Your satisfied and yet also you question.

The film is a masterfully captured expression of struggle. This is an ongoing case. At the award nomination's at the Academy Awards the children that where molested and the families of those molested protested. Also in 2010 in an odd and unusual move The federal Appeals Court urged prosecutors to reopen the Friedman case. Stated that Jesse Friedman may have wrongly been convicted over the hysteria of the 1980s child molestation witch hunts.

Whatever the case and whatever you believe there will be mixed opinions, some believe, some dont, some say this, some say that, some have theories, some half-truths, and some have evidence. Whatever the case is Capturing the Friedmans is a must see must own must talk about documentary. I think we all as humans as being individuals can relate to this film. We can relate to the idea that people that we think we know, that we think are loved ones, family members, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, children just might hold secrets. Might have a different point of view. That our loved one might just be a monster under the bed or in the closet or sitting right next to us enjoying dinner and conversation.

I think the True Horror Is watching this family turn into chaos. Watching it explode before your eyes. The sadness. The downward spiral of destruction. The true heartache is watching this family especially the children, the sons not accept the facts. They deny everything before them. Everything about there fathers doing they seem to deny even after their own father admits. Even after there father confesses to molesting children, to having sex with his own 8 year old brother. So the secrets, hidden truths, the horrors of reality all cages this family. Destroys this family and yet it's the lingering doubts, the questions that are unanswered.

People ask me what I think. I am not here to judge anyone but the truth is both of them have been convicted in the eyes of the law so there fore they are guilty. I believe Arnold Friedman is guilty as sin as for Jesse that is a touchy subject, do I feel that his trial was a miscarriage of justice and witch hunt 100 percent yes, he should have never been placed next to his father in court.

This is a film that's needs to be seen and expressed and showcased in group settings and discussion groups. This would make for a great debate. A must see powerful little film of truth.