Documentary on the Friedmans, 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.
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In the late 1980's, the Friedmans - father and respected computer and music teacher Arnold Friedman, mother and housewife Elaine Friedman, and their three grown sons, David Friedman, Seth Friedman and Jesse Friedman - of Great Neck, Long Island, are seemingly your typical middle class American family. They all admit that the marriage was by no means close to being harmonious - Arnold and Elaine eventually got divorced - but the sons talk of their father, while also not being always there for them, as being a good man. This façade of respectability masks the fact that Arnold was buying and distributing child pornography. Following a sting operation to confirm this fact, the authorities began to investigate Arnold for sexual abuse of the minor-aged male students of his computer classes, which he held in the basement of the family home. Based on interviews with the students, not only was Arnold charged with and ultimately convicted of multiple counts of sodomy and sexual abuse of these ... Written by
I rented Capturing the Friedmans out of curiosity. I have read about these child molestation cases made during the eighties in which many innocent people were sent to jail because of the incompetency and lack of experience the cops had in dealing with these cases. The documentary centers around the destruction of a family after Arnold Friedman (patriarch) and the youngest son, Jesse, are accused of committing horrible acts against children. Arnold Friedman as it turned out was into kiddie porn and he got busted and then led to a series of accusations made against him by his students. The documentary uses footages filmed by the Friedmans that captured all the events and reactions during the trial. It was like the film Happiness, but only real. Watching the film I saw glimpses under the surfaces of these seemingly "normal and happy" people. The eldest son, David, is angry and in denial of his father's homosexuality and pedophilia. Elaine Friedman is a woman who had lost all identity of herself and eventually begins to turn on David (who still resents his mother to this day), Seth (the middle son) refused to be interviewed for the documentary but he is shown in the features. What is fascinating and even laughable is how the cops who were handling the case were incompetent and they coerced the "victims" with the exception of one "victim" whose face and name are anonymous. I for one analyzed and found that while Arnold Friedman may have been the one that was guilty I felt sorry for him and yet angry. He knew that his own guilt and his own perversions were not only convicting him, but they were putting his family in danger and they were the ones in trial. I don't think that Jesse Friedman did anything nor was he abused by his father. I am sure that Arnold may have played out his fantasies in his head and possibly with one or two children, but I do not think he made any advances against or even harmed his sons. I felt that the real bad guys were the lawyers and the cops who investigated and coerced the testimonies of the children interviewed and the majority of the children who accused Arnold and Jesse Friedman later on recanted their testimonies and said that nothing happened and that they only said what they said to make the interviews stop. Hell, a parent even said that a police officer threatened his son into testifying against the Friedmans. If you are a psychology or criminology major than this is a great film to study.
It is also sad because we see a family being ripped apart by secrets that are convicting them and putting them before the public. Capturing The Friedmans is a fascinating character study and a devastating one to watch.
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