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Running Time:
107 minutes

Rating: Unrated

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
This well-made documentary leaves you wishing that it would have gone on even longer, even though it's sometimes hard to believe that it really happened and no one said anything. It's a stunning achievement.

Capturing The Friedmans
Basically using home movie footage shot by the family members themselves, director Andrew Jarecki has put together a startling non-fiction drama dealing with an alleged series of heinous crimes, about how the accusations, the hatred of the community, and especially the arguments within the household succeeded in making out the Friedmans to be one of the most dysfunctional families you've ever seen. He shows the upscale Long Island village of Great Neck, an often clowning father of three boys, who won awards as a popular high school teacher and was a great pop-piano player, but by the end of the film you're not quite sure whether two members of the Friedman family are truly guilty of over a hundred counts of child molestation or whether they are victims of a witch hunt and miscarriage of justice. The film editor Richard Hankin cleverly weaves the Friedman's home movies with newly shot footage showing us how after Arnold retired from teaching, he supplemented his retirement income by giving private computer and piano lessonsin his Great Neck home, with his youngest son Jesse apparently often looking on. When some students later alleged sexual misconduct on the part of both father and son, a local postal inspector looks into an envelope that's been mailed to Arnold from Amsterdam. After he lets the police know that the envelope contained child pornography, the police, armed with a search warrant, raided the Friedman household during a quiet Thanksgiving, breaking the door down and tearing the place apart. There they found a number of kiddie-porn magazines hidden behind the piano. As allegations continued to pile up on the serious charges that Arnold and Jesse were sexually molesting the pupils, the Great Neck Villagers turned hostile and the news media descended on the community, with Arnold eventually pleading guilty, leaving his son Jesse with the decision on whether to plea bargain despite his protestations of innocence. Various perspectives on the truth of the charges emerge and at least one former student swears that Arnold and Jesse never touched him. This testimony contrasts with that of others who insisted that they were molested. While Jesse's brother David fully supported his brother's protestations of innocence, Arnold's wife Elaine becomes the barer of some of the most disturbing commentary. She tells the camera that for years things were not so good between her and her husband and in the film's most disturbing scene, the Friedman's home movie records a blowout of an argument occurring during a Passover Seder which makes us wonder why Arnold and Elaine ever stayed together. Eventually Elaine divorced Arnold while he was in jail, remarried, and moved to the Berkshires. In the meantime Arnold died in prison. Sadly some questions are left unanswered: Why did none of the alleged victims of abuse complain to their parents, who in most cases picked them up right after their lessons? And where was the physical evidence of molestation? And to what extent were the kids coached prior to their court appearances? What Jarecki has managed to prove is that these people are not so different from the rest of us. What happened to them could conceivably happen to any family.

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