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
Director/producer Andrew Jarecki was in the process of making a documentary about people who work as children's birthday party clowns in New York which led to the discovery of David Friedman's story. David Friedman was considered the most successful of the city's party clowns. The resulting clown documentary, Just a Clown (2004), is included as an extra on the DVD for this movie. See more »
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 »
Outstanding documentary, which demonstrates how quickly life can fall apart for anyone. The center of attention, of course, is Arnold Friedman, a pedophile whose personal issues create a firestorm that destroys his own life, but more tragically, the lives of his children. There are so many facets to this documentary that it amazes me that they could all be captured in the film's running time. Several important issues are highlighted; front and center is the hysteria surrounding pedophilia that emerged in the late eighties. Amidst the background of the McMartin and "Little Rascals" trials and the culture of quack psychology (repressed memories, hypnotic suggestion) emerged the case of Arnold Friedman.
The most interesting aspect of this case was that Friedman was a pedophile - there is no doubt about that. The question is whether he was guilty of the crimes charged, more than 300 charges of child abuse. Furthermore, could his son and assistant, Jesse, also be guilty? The filmmaker does not force out any answers to that question, but the testimonies of his accusers and the incompetent buffoonery of the police involved in the case lead one to conclude that the answer is a resounding "No."
The crimes are only part of the story. The true story lies in the destruction of the Friedman family. Arnold, the eccentric intellectual and apparently loving father turns out to be feeble and a pedohpile, a man crippled by guilt. Elaine, the "loving wife and mother" who is frozen out by her family turns out to be a weaker human being than her husband, bowing under pressure to administer horrifying "advice" to her youngest son. The brothers, lead by the eldest, fight a losing battle to save their family. One of the most tragic and moving pictures I have seen in ages.
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