Capturing the Friedmans-Movie Review

Capturing the Friedmans Film Review

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Capturing the Friedmans

Dir. Andrew Jarecki
USA 2002 35mm Running Time: 107 min.

When documentarian Andrew Jarecki set out to make a short film about New York City clowns, he could scarcely have imagined the familial hell he was about to unearth.

David Friedman, NYC's top party entertainer had a secret. A nasty one that could put a prompt end to his predilection for working with children. Now forgotten, it had been big news in the affluent suburb of Great Neck, NY in the late 80s: Friedmans father Arnie, a well-loved and respected schoolteacher was arrested for possession of child pornography, and the accusations were soon augmented with charges of molesting students of his in-home computer classes.

Privy to the illicit leap-frog sessionsone computer student described was youngest Friedman son Jesse, a teenage headbanger who purportedly assisted his dad with the classes.

But one of the films darkest components comes courtesy of the years of home movies that David Friedman handed over to Jarecki to buttress the already loaded subject. The drama escalates from unsavory to downright baffling as loyalties are divided and the Friedman clan comes to resemble a tight-knit Boys Club from which cynical mother Elaine is routinely excluded.

We see Arnie shrink from a lively extrovert to a despondent mess, while screaming matches erupt all around him. At its core, Capturing the Friedmans is a mystery that even a lifetime of their obsessive recordings can shed little light on.

Trapped either in front of or behind the ever-present camera, The Friedmans replace emotional investment with a sideshow voyeurism that shields them from the reality of an extremely dysfunctional family, while the cops and prosecutors replace non-existent evidence with hysteria.

Kier-La Janisse