Capturing the Friedmans Andrew Jarecki

Capturing the Friedmans Andrew Jarecki
Documentary filmmaking is about the search for truth; Capturing the Friedmans demonstrates that no matter how well chronicled or examined a subject is, truth can be a slippery fish. The Oscar-nominated documentary concerns the Friedman family of Great Neck, NY, an affluent Long Island community. In 1988, patriarch Arnold Friedman and his son Jesse were arrested and charged with an immense list of sexual crimes allegedly committed against students in a computer class that Arnold, a retired schoolteacher, held in his home. As the case unfolds, through the film, it becomes clear that despite the fact that both Arnold and Jesse eventually pled guilty to their crimes the events of 1988 were marked by shoddy police work, questionable witnesses, very little evidence and an assumption of guilt that swept Arnold, Jesse and the entire Friedman family along in its wake Capturing the Friedmans at heart is a documentary about memory — what we recall and how, in what detail and why; all this is brought home by the fact that the Friedmans narcissistically and compulsively filmed themselves (and had for generations), including extensive video shot in the home after criminal charges were brought. This rare and unusual gift to the documentary filmmakers gives Friedmans its compelling aura — here is an American family unvarnished by self-awareness, for whom the camera has been present for so long that it no longer registers with them. But the closer one looks at this family, the less sure anything really seems. On DVD, Capturing the Friedmans continues to search for truth, hacking away at the jungle of misinformation and "memory" that continues to overgrow it. Smartly divided into different sections (film discussion, family, unseen footage, the criminal case, etc.), a second DVD chronicles more unseen Friedman home movies and audio tapes, but also looks at each member of the family (save son Seth, who declined to participate), including Jesse's life now out of jail. It also documents the reaction to the film and the ongoing attention this film has brought to the case — Jesse, who was released from prison in 2001 after serving 13 years — is hoping to use the film to get his case overturned. This is a fascinating, ongoing public document, twisted beyond recognition by the knotty search for truth. Plus: commentary, unseen footage, clown short film starring David Friedman, DVD-Rom, more. (Magnolia/Alliance Atlantis)