Click the title below for a trailer
94: CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS 
DIR: Andrew Jarecki
WHY IS IT ON THE LIST?
Andrew Jarecki was going to make a film about clowns; birthday party clowns working in New York City. But one of his clowns told him a family secret, and in that moment the film completely changed. David Friedman, who until then Jarecki had been following in his day job as ‘Silly Billy’, told him that in the late 1980’s his father Arnold and youngest brother Jesse had been convicted of child sexual abuse, and that he had videoed everything during the months between arrest and convictions as the family tore itself apart. The result is a shocking first person document of a family going through truly horrendous stress.
It’s a film that both angers, because Arnold was, demonstrably, a paedophile and child abuser (though he may very well have been falsely accused on the charges of which he was convicted, and saddens, because Jesse Friedman, then a terrified 19 year old seems, at very best, to have been deeply unfairly served by the law and at worst to have spent 13 years in prison for something he didn’t do. The case came at the time of a huge panic in the US about child sexual abuse, which seems to have led to a lot of the problems with the case.
With the reams of footage he had to choose from, Jarecki crafts a focused narrative, leaning heavily on the home movies so that we see the story unfolding from within, as well as being informed and offered comment about it after the fact from some very even-handedly used interviews. For all its apparent sympathy for Jesse this isn’t a campaigning film, Jarecki calmly lays out the case for both guilt and innocence in respect of both Jesse and Arnold and leaves us with as many of the facts as he can cram into 103 minutes.
The most striking aspect of the film is the home movie footage of the Friedmans; an eccentric and entertaining family becoming more so as they try desperately to cope, with little help, with what’s happening to them. It’s hard to watch at times, as tempers flare in all directions, and yet there are also beautiful moments of levity, moments in which the family comes together.
This is an exemplary documentary, it is informative, but thanks to the intimacy of the footage and to Jarecki’s exceptional sense of drama in the way he shapes the story, and allows it to unfold twist upon twist like a great thriller, means that despite the difficulty of the material it is also a riveting watch.
Jesse’s last night
The night before Jesse goes to prison his family try and have as much fun as they possibly can. After such acrimony as has gone before this is a beautiful and moving sequence, but also very sad.
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