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CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS


On the day before Thanksgiving in 1987, police busted into a house in the affluent community of Great Neck, Long Island, and handcuffed a respected school teacher and his 18-year-old son, both of whom were accused of sexually assaulting numerous male students. This is the story of what came before and after that unforgettable day.

CAST: Members of the Friedman family, a judge, attorneys, detectives, an investigative reporter and alleged victims.

DIRECTOR: Andrew Jarecki

 

"‘Capturing the Friedmans,’ an extraordinary new documentary directed by Andrew Jarecki, is both a meditation on perversion and truth and one of the most heartbreaking films ever made about an American family…‘Capturing the Friedmans’ reaffirms the family as the inescapable cauldron of great drama—as the birthplace and feeding ground of the most powerful emotions, including perverse sexual desire, and as the site of reconciliation and solace, too…I’m not sure how Jarecki is going to top ‘Capturing the Friedmans.’ To begin your career with a masterpiece is so remarkable a feat that one can only hope Jarecki finds another subject as rich as this family, which was obsessed with itself but needed a filmmaker to begin to see itself at all." --David Denby, The New Yorker

"‘Capturing the Friedmans’ manages to be a mystery, a thriller and a family melodrama, all rolled into one well-made and exceedingly disturbing documentary…You get more than you bargain for, thanks to the access the Friedmans grant Jarecki to hours of home video they shot while this was playing out. They compulsively taped themselves and their family arguments as the case moved through the courts…Are the Friedmans monsters or just misunderstood? If Arnold Friedman committed these crimes, does that make him irredeemably evil? And which, if any of them, is telling the truth – or even believe they are? That's what makes ‘Capturing the Friedmans’ so fascinating and horrifying at the same time. The story is real; so are the people and the consequences they face. But the truth remains a mystery, apparently even to the people involved." --Marshall Fine, The Journal News

"By not making any case, ‘Friedmans’ makes its own…Just when you think you know what's going on -- which was precisely the experience so many had during the investigation, prosecution and reporting of the Friedman case -- Jarecki takes you in the opposite direction. The end result is that a firm conviction is a dangerous thing…Jarecki has taken an impossible subject, and subjects, and made a movie that works as crime thriller, social document and, occasionally, surrealist comedy."--John Anderson, Newsday

"The Sundance-acclaimed documentary ‘Capturing the Friedmans’ shows how the cynicism in our film culture has also led to the degradation of documentary into a mocking, insensitive genre. Sadism and prurience take the place of honest inquiry in ‘Friedmans’…Director Andrew Jarecki deliberately confuses issues to induce shock and smirky distance regarding the Long Island family devastated by charges of pedophilia in the 1980s… ‘Friedmans' is an entertainment for audiences who expect the worst of people—and of cinema. Jarecki trendily vacillates between ridicule and pathos…the ultimate dysfunctional clan’s mutual abuses are even recorded on home-video, which the filmmakers treat as found treasure rather than rigorously investigating the court case…What results is an abuse of the documentary format, an offense to the basic reason we go to the movies: to learn about human experience." --Armond White, New York Press

"It's fascinating because you've never seen a more dysfunctional family in broad daylight, and it's disturbing because it straddles the fine line between responsible filmmaking and callous sensationalism (to say nothing of invasion of privacy) in ways some viewers may find morally reprehensible… As the self-destructive architects of their own downfall, the Friedmans do a persuasive job of tearing down the masonry that holds any family together…Lurid, pathetic and desperate for compassion, they make sad, reluctant voyeurs of us all." --Rex Reed, New York Observer

"Mr. Jarecki assembled film from a continuing familial tragedy and shrewdly wove it into a grim, watchable wormhole narrative about a family's decades-long tumble into shattering denial, lies and abuse…The films show an incredible bond of warmth and understanding among the garrulous, corny Friedman guys. There's nothing they wouldn't do to crack a joke and crack each other up. Elaine, the mother, has the silent, slightly tortured face that is as easy to recognize as the connection among the male members of the household. She's the mom who's had to endure so many raised toilet seats and so much frenetic, competitive jokiness that she has lost the ability to even fake a smile." --Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

"Were Arnold and his son guilty of brutalizing defenseless children, or were they themselves the victims of an obscene miscarriage of justice? That’s a question you may be pondering for a long time after you’ve seen this dark, provocative, haunting film. 'Capturing the Friedmans' may be Jarecki’s first feature film, but it wipes away everything else, fact or fiction, that we’ve seen on screen so far this year." --Guy Flatley, Moviecrazed

"As much as you may deplore, in principle and in the abstract, the practice of invading a family’s privacy with a camera, searching relentlessly for their deepest, darkest secrets, you will probably still find yourself unable to turn away from this cruel spectacle...We are left with the wreckage of a marriage and a family, but it’s not a tragedy, because there is no catharsis and no flaw is ever acknowledged. Still, this film is not to be missed, because it is so painfully and profoundly human." --Andrew Sarris, The New York Observer

"This extraordinary film refracts truth through the prism of memory, until what you get is a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions, full of sacrifice and betrayal. It is also a commentary on how the media of film and home video can distort or reveal…Amazingly, Arnold and his three sons had a habit of videotaping themselves, not just at birthday parties, but during arguments, blame-fests, trial preparations and just clowning around outside the courthouse…The footage provides an eerie look at a household in upheaval." --Jami Bernard, The New York Daily News

"Even pre-scandal, the Friedmans extensively filmed their day-to-day lives—as if they were waiting for someone, someday, to make a documentary about them. Jarecki shows off this footage as evidence of a truly dysfunctional family in various stages of denial. What it reveals at least as much is the modern phenomenon of reality-TV self-exposure carried to such lengths that, by comparison, the Osbournes look like the Cleavers." --Peter Rainer, New York Magazine

"…a remarkable and shattering documentary…an unforgettable and complex portrait of a nuclear family in meltdown…‘Capturing the Friedmans’ ends by noting that David is Manhattan's most successful party clown -- though you have to wonder how much longer that's going to be true after the public sees this reality footage of a clan that makes the Osbournes seem positively normal." --Lou Lumenick, The New York Post

"Is it a great film, or simply a record of devastating domestic trauma, fallout, resilience, and sorrow? Does it matter?… Errol Morris-like, Jarecki lets the asinine authorities talk until they've buried themselves in righteous dung. The audiovisual intimacy and crashing injustice at work here create the texture and breadth of a classical tragedy… I've seen only a few films in my lifetime that so potently express the golden hopes of childhood and parenthood, as well as the inevitable decimation of that hopefulness—that forward-looking bliss—at the hands of catastrophe, or merely age, spite, and exhaustion. Or, as for the Friedmans, all of the above." --Michael Atkinson, The Village Voice