What started out as a film about childrens party clowns quickly evolved into something darker as the details of the Friedman family were exposed layer by disturbing layer.
The familys patriarch, Arnold Friedman, was a respected schoolteacher who ran a computer class out of the basement of his home in Great Neck, New York. Along with his wife Elaine, a homemaker, he raised three sons: David, Seth and Jesse. In Capturing the Friedmans, were given the extraordinary opportunity to watch these young men grow up due to the Friedmans almost obsessive desire to film their daily lives. These are people who filmed everything, including the aftermath of the events that destroyed their lives.
As the family is preparing to eat their Thanksgiving dinner, the police enter the home, searching for pornographic material. Securing enough material to take Arnold and youngest son Jesse into custody, the two are placed on trial for dozens of sexual acts with minors.
This documentary closely follows the preparations that led up to the trial and the consequent verdicts, including interviews with police detectives, lawyers, family friends, and even some of the now-grown students who claimed to be victims. Through these interviews, and videos shot by the family as they argued and fought over how to handle Arnold and Jesses trials, a confusing picture emerges. The film ultimately leaves the audience to sit in judgment of what really transpired inside the walls of the Friedman home back in the late 1980s.
Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki never injects his opinions and never intercedes to push the story into a different predetermined direction. The resulting effort is one of the most compelling examples of documentary filmmaking ever produced. Thoroughly engrossing, when Capturing the Friedmans concludes and the lights go on, youre still left in the dark as to what youve just witnessed.
"Capturing the Friedmans" was produced and directed by Andrew Jarecki (full cast and crew list)