Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Jesse (center) & Arnold Friedman (right), Source: Magnolia

Directed by: Andrew Jarecki.
Produced by: Jarecki & Marc Smerling.
Director of Photography: Adolfo Doring.
Edited by: Richard Hankin.
Music by: Andrea Morricone.
Released by: Magnolia.
Country of Origin: USA. 107 min. Rated: R.

DVD Special Features: Commentary by: Andrew Jarecki. Unseen Friedman home movies. Great Neck Outraged. New witnesses & evidence. Uncut footage of the prosecution's star witness. Friedman family scrapbook and hidden audio tapes. The original short film about David Friedman. Jesse's life today. An altercation at the film's New York premiere. The Judge speaks out at the Great Neck premiere. A special ROM section with key documents from the family and the case. English/French/Spanish Subtitles. Trailer. (3 hours, 55 min.)

A fascinating documentary that’s both a portrait of an American family’s disintegration and an examination of child sexual abuse. Arnold Friedman, an award-winning high school teacher, also teaches computer classes Saturdays in his basement. After an arrest for possessing child pornography, a police investigation leads to over a hundred charges for sodomizing and sexually abusing male computer students. The Friedman’s three sons stand behind their father, turning against their mother, Elaine. They believe their father is innocent, but she is not so sure. Interviews of Elaine, the eldest son David, the youngest Jesse (also charged with his father), police investigators, lawyers, and the investigative journalist Debbie Nathan turn Capturing the Friedmans into a Long Island Rashomon. Questions of investigative impropriety, a town caught up in a witch hunt, and the lack of forensic evidence are raised. Ciphering the truth, the film becomes involving. Director Jarecki takes his time in presenting the divergent points of view. But even at nearly two hours, one still feels there is a lack of information. One wishes there would have been more interviews of the witnesses for the prosecution. But what makes this documentary remarkable is the access to family home videos, especially scenes of the family strategizing before the trials, which turn into vitriolic attacks. At its conclusion, there’s an indelible and more than understandable sadness when Elaine comments about her marriage, “There was nothing between us except the children we yelled at.” Kent Turner
July 16, 2003

DVD Extras: The bonus DVD provides further information, but a lack of tangible evidence renders both the Friedmans and their detractors unconvincing. Though the director tends to sympathize with the family, inconsistencies on both sides of the argument adds to the film’s ambiguity. Testimonies and ponderings of the Friedmans, their friends, the police, and experts merely raise more questions. Though enlightening, chapters exploring the movie’s conception and its making are typical. The best of the extras, the contentious discussion segment filmed at the New York premiere, illuminates the enduring bitterness. More home video footage of the Friedmans transcends the documentary’s subject matter, suggesting a vulnerable American family. The audience can almost empathize. A frequently asked questions section, DVD-ROM documents, and a simulated family photo album offer more of the same stubborn accusations from all parties involved. Although all possibilities have been candidly explored, the only truth one can be sure of is that someone is lying. Stephen Bowles
February 8, 2004



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