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Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Biography | 18 July 2003 (USA)
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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.

Director:

Andrew Jarecki
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 25 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Arnold Friedman Arnold Friedman ... Himself (archive footage)
Elaine Friedman Elaine Friedman ... Herself
David Friedman ... Himself
Seth Friedman Seth Friedman ... Himself (archive footage)
Jesse Friedman ... Himself
John McDermott John McDermott ... Himself
Frances Galasso Frances Galasso ... Herself (as Det. Frances Galasso)
Anthony Sgeugloi Anthony Sgeugloi ... Himself
Chuck Scarborough Chuck Scarborough ... Himself (archive footage)
Joseph Onorato Joseph Onorato ... Himself
Judd Maltin Judd Maltin ... Himself
Howard Friedman Howard Friedman ... Himself
Abbey Boklan Abbey Boklan ... Herself (as Judge Abbey Boklan)
Ron Georgalis Ron Georgalis ... Himself
Scott Banks Scott Banks ... Himself
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Storyline

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 Huggo

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Taglines:

Who do you believe?


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 July 2003 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Captura dos Friedmans See more »

Filming Locations:

Long Island, New York, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$65,154, 1 June 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$3,117,985, 12 October 2003
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie caused some theatre patrons to remain in their seats to argue the innocence of Arnold and Jesse Friedman. This caused theatre owners to complain to the films distributor, Magnolia Pictures. See more »

Crazy Credits

Only the immediate members of the Friedman family (listed 1-5) are credited in a standard cast list. The other cast members are identified by on-screen graphics. See more »

Connections

References Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969) See more »

Soundtracks

Act Naturally
Performed by Buck Owens
Written by Vonnie Morrison and Johnny Russell
Courtesy of Sony/ATV Songs LLC (BMI)
See more »

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User Reviews

An assault on our expectations of truth
18 August 2003 | by howard.schumannSee all my reviews

In 1987, Great Neck, Long Island, a comfortable upper middle class town, was rocked when Arnold Friedman, a respected high school teacher and his 18-year old son, Jessie were arrested on charges of molestation, rape, and sodomy against young boys to whom they taught computer classes in their basement. The documentary Capturing the Friedmans is a dark and disturbing look at the Friedman family (Arnold, sons David, Jessie, Seth and their mother Elaine) that compels us to sift through the ambiguous evidence and determine for ourselves the question of their guilt or innocence. "It's a combination of different versions of different stories", says first-time director Andrew Jarecki, who assembled video footage filmed by eldest son David, news accounts, still photos, and his own original material, and turned it into one of the most powerful films of the year.

The documentary was conceived by Mr. Jarecki after working on a piece about "Silly Billy" (David Friedman), the number one birthday clown in New York City. He found David to be a sad clown underneath the happy face and began to probe deeper, ultimately discovering the arrest, court case, and David's obsessive home videos documenting the family's deterioration. The first glimpse we get is a video of the happy family having fun at the beach. We are soon jolted by the revelation that Arnold collects child pornography magazines. After being alerted by the postal authorities, the police search his house and find a printout of a list of students he taught computer literacy. Former students are tracked down and interviewed, and Arnold and his son Jessie are accused of committing hundreds of acts of sex with their students. Listening to the Police Department, one might conclude that they are guilty, but as the film progresses doubts are raised about the validity of this conclusion.

We are told that there was a complete lack of physical evidence, that witnesses may have been hypnotized, possibly coerced to give information and that some students denied anything ever took place. I began to question. If there was all of this going on, why didn't any child speak up or complain of a stomachache and refuse to go back? Why did they re-enroll for the advanced course? Everyone is convincing on camera but we are left scratching our heads wondering what is fantasy and what is truth. Both Arnold and Jessie maintain their innocence, although Arnold admits to being a pedophile and molesting two boys at the family's summer home as well as his younger brother Howard. Though Arnold received a life sentence and Jessie was released after serving 13 of his 18-year sentence, it is equally plausible that they were completely innocent, somewhat innocent, or completely guilty.

While dissecting the inner workings of the family, Jarecki looks into the nature of memory to such an extent that Capturing the Friedmans is an assault on our expectation of truth. We expect the case to unfold with a clear identification of the perpetrators and victims, that some revelation of intimacy will arise from home videos of the family's unguarded moments, but our desires are never fulfilled. We are tantalized, still seeking the missing piece to the puzzle. Though we may never know about Arnold's or Jessie's guilt or innocence, to me the family was a disaster waiting to happen, having bottled up inside of them years of anguish and guilt. At the end, I felt tremendous sadness that we do not always have the emotional strength to act in our own best interests, to admit our vulnerability to each other, or operate in a way that nurtures our capacity to love. For the Friedmans, the legacy of this failure is a stigmatized life and painful memories that will remain forever.


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