Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

A documentary based largely on home-movie footage recorded under extraordinary circumstances, this unnerving picture leaves viewers with more questions than answers.

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“[Capturing the Friedmans] has managed to have it both ways... to erect a front of earnest moral confusion and even-handed treatment while signalling a set of preferred beliefs; and to implicate everyone and let yourself off the hook.”
Paul Arthur, Cineaste,2003

Having originally set out to make a film about clowns, Andrew Jarecki found himself dealing with an altogether more troubling subject. Capturing the Friedmans is about a well-off family on Long Island whose world was upended by the arrest of the father and youngest son on child-molestation charges. The documentary probes a case that comes to seem like a legal quagmire, each ostensibly decisive development opening more areas of doubt. At the same time, it charts – through extraordinary home-video footage recorded by the Friedmans themselves – the tensions and schisms within their own family.

Deeply troubling and ambiguous, the film also hints at the notion of validation through video recording that has come to dominate 21st-century visual culture.

Jarecki co-produced Catfish (2010), another documentary involving ambiguous self-recording. Paradise Lost (1996) and its 2000 sequel document another questionable prosecution for sexual crimes against children.

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