Magnolia Pictures | Release Date: May 30, 2003
7.9
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Generally favorable reviews based on 34 Ratings
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9
EpicLadySpongeMay 4, 2016
It works, works, and works. What? You expect some originality there? I know, I know, but let's not get all rowdy over a review, okay? Capturing the Friedmans is a perfect experience.
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4
juliankennedy23Jul 11, 2014
This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Capturing the Friedmans: 4 out of 10: Child Molestation, family dysfunction, mass hysteria, homosexuality, and clowns: Where do I sign up.

Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki was making a documentary on the high priced children's clown Silly Billy (David Friedman). A very angry and irrational clown that will play into every clown stereotype you will ever have (Think serial killer). Well it turns out David is the older brother and son of the two men convicted in a famous child molestation case. during the witch hunt style child molestation hysteria, of the late eighties.

Could the Friedmans also be victims of same said hysteria? Innocent men railroaded to prison? Well it turns out no. If you're looking for a documentary on the abuse of the justice system, especially in such cases, keep looking. If you want a voyeuristic look inside a upper middle class Jewish family one southern twang away from Jerry Springer welcome home.

Without the child molestation charges this would be a hilarious romp. Each family member from the angry clown to the screeching mother is a gift that keeps on giving. Using home footage that manages to capture moments that reality television can only dream of. Capturing the Friedmans gives you a ringside seat next to a family imploding upon itself.

Unfortunately much of the movie concentrates on the child molestation case at hand. Trying to create suspense and play with the idea that the two men are innocent, the movie sets itself up for a fall. While some of the charges are clearly trumped up (naked group leapfrog?), the father is also clearly guilty (and pleads accordingly). The son Jesse, whose case is on shakier ground, doesn't help his own cause by pleading guilty himself and having zero defense witnesses. (I.E. none of the boys supposedly there come forward and say he didn't do these things.)

Jarecki clearly was playing with the hand he was dealt. And while he had an incredible collection of home movies fall into his lap, his attempts at turning it into a documentary about the American judicial system fall flat. On the other hand if I were looking at spending six months filming Silly Billy the clown I would grasp for straws too.
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7
pgmarkDec 16, 2010
close to an 8. I was surprised by this movie not expecting anything. Nicely done and it had my feelings for the persons doing the flip flop all the way through. I still want to know the "real" story but I don't feel cheated in any way. Mustclose to an 8. I was surprised by this movie not expecting anything. Nicely done and it had my feelings for the persons doing the flip flop all the way through. I still want to know the "real" story but I don't feel cheated in any way. Must see movie. Expand
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10
GregePorterAug 31, 2015
Bottom-line: Capturing the Friedmans is, simple put, an amazing documentary.

Capturing the Friedmans is about the Friedmans; an upper-middle class Jewish family in upstate New York. One day, the police come to the home of the Friedmans and
Bottom-line: Capturing the Friedmans is, simple put, an amazing documentary.

Capturing the Friedmans is about the Friedmans; an upper-middle class Jewish family in upstate New York. One day, the police come to the home of the Friedmans and search for child pornography. The police uncover a number of magazines belonging to Arnold Friedman. A retired high school teacher, he, with the help of his son Jesse, hold computer classes and piano lessons for young children. Once the police realize this, they start investigating Arnold for child abuse. Before long, he and his son are charged with around a hundred counts of sexual assault.

I have a lot of fun watching documentaries; I can spend roughly two hours watching a movie on the grounds that I am learning something. Over time I’ve come to realize that it isn’t just what the documentary is saying but how. Sometimes documentaries are clearly biased.

If you are a fan of documentaries, there is a website called Documentary Heaven which has lots of documentaries you can watch for free. I remember one that was about secret government cloud seeding experiments. Cloud seeding is, more or less, controlling rainfall and weather patterns. For that documentary, there was just the director, one person that was interviewed, and only about a dozen pictures that faded in and out of the frame. Towards the end of the hour and forty-five minute snoozefest, the director comes out from behind the camera and shouts to the camera, “If he has had so much success cloud seeding, why isn’t the government spending millions doing further testing!?” It detracts from the feeling that you are learning something. Instead it feels like you are spending time hearing propaganda.

The only other documentary I’ve seen more than once was Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man (2005) and that was because I saw it for a film class. I watched it once at home and once in the class. I don’t usually watch documentaries more than once because, well, hearing it once is usually enough. It’s like attending a lecture more than once. You don't unless you have to. I saw Capturing the Friedmans twice so far because, again, I saw it for a class. But I will, however, most certainly be seeing it again. Capturing the Friedmans is an example of amazing storytelling.

The plot thickens at every turn. With documentaries about crimes, I read them like a detective novel. You decipher the film maker’s bias and then anticipate the details of the crime to make up your mind. In this case, whenever I solved the mystery, if you will, the movie would cut to another interview that threw me off.

Jarecki juxtaposes interviews to create fascinating dialogues. For example, we hear from the District Attorney about the process for conducting interviews with children. He explains that the children may be frightened so one doesn't want to put words in their mouths. Instead of saying “we know he assaulted you,” one should say, “what happened next?” The movie then cuts over to one of the detectives who conducted many of the interviews for the Friedman case: “We went through the whole line of questions...’We know you were in these computer classes and we know that there was a good chance he sexually assaulted you...” the camera then fades out. It's an example of how the movie can steer us toward reaching a particular conclusion. Better still, the movie can make us realize how we could never know the truth of the Friedman case. Towards the end of the movie, Jesse and his attorney provide radically different accounts of the same event. Who can we trust?

A major source of information comes from the Friedman’s home movies. The family shot a lot of home movies particularly around the time of the investigations. The footage provides a great balance to the interviews. Some shots from their ordinary cameras are eerily good too which add to the experience. At one point, Arnold is playing the piano and his son moves in for a close up. We listen to upbeat music (though it is made darker given the circumstance) and watch his glasses which reflect his hands on the piano keys.

I highly recommend you see Capturing the Friedmans. The subject matter is solidly depressing but it is a really well done documentary.
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10
SandieEAug 29, 2005
Cannot stop thinking about it.
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10
AnnaMar 11, 2007
A brilliant and challenging documentary. stunning in every sense of the word. jarecki will challenge every notion you have held about sex offenders.
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10
RichardH.Dec 6, 2008
flows over many provocative questions not the least of which is "what's more important: pursuing and convicting the most evil of criminals or pursuing and maintaining justice?"
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2
heroFeb 19, 2011
I felt that the directer had a clear agenda. After looking into the case - he left out numerous important facts that would have made the world of difference. He apparantly only interviewed a small number of victims and left out and/orI felt that the directer had a clear agenda. After looking into the case - he left out numerous important facts that would have made the world of difference. He apparantly only interviewed a small number of victims and left out and/or minimized facts that would have contradicted an apparant agenda. If it was done on purpose or because of lack of research - shame on him Expand
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