"Who do you believe?"
Documentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middleclass Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.
Documentary film-making has taken a step up in recent years with an increasing number winning high acclaim. It's not surprising that a documentary as interesting and as personal as Capturing the Friedmans is one of the most highly rated, and director Andrew Jarecki's insight into a real-life family being torn apart fully deserves it's acclaim. Great documentaries are films that manage to tell a story while remaining objective, and even though this film handles the ever controversial theme of paedophilia; the director allows the relevant parties to tell the story as they remember it, and ultimately the viewer is left with only the facts surrounding the case, which can then be used to form an opinion. The real life case that the film handles is that of the trial of Arnold and Jessie Friedman. Arnold Friedman was arrested in 1987 on more than 400 charges against young boys aged 7 to 11, while Jessie Friedman was tried for several sexual acts against young boys that were studying in his father's computer class. The film follows their story told through relatives and people involved in the case.
Perhaps the most astounding thing about this film is the fact that it was made. Most families wouldn't want documentary filmmakers (not to mention the world at large) getting in on their personal lives, but I suppose it did give them a chance to tell the story as they see it. The themes that the documentary handles are indeed harrowing, as aside from the obvious implications of being a paedophile; we've also got the destruction of a family unit, as well as statements of hatred from most of the family members. Andrew Jarecki keeps things moving by splicing real-life footage with testimonies from people involved with the case and the opinions of those close to the convicted. There are several facts that are presented, and some may believe that these are attempts to sway the audience; but the director only allows the actual facts to stand as the truth, while the personal opinions of those close to the central family are kept plainly as opinions. The film never makes a big thing of its central plot, and it's obvious that the director prefers to keep his eye on the family, which ensures that the resulting film is ultimately more frightening. Overall, this is a compelling watch and comes highly recommended.