Magnolia Pictures | Release Date: May 30, 2003
8.0
USER SCORE
Generally favorable reviews based on 49 Ratings
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Mixed:
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6
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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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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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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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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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