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Customer Review

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly intelligent and well made documentary, 3 Feb. 2005
This review is from: Capturing The Friedmans [2004] [DVD] (DVD)
I only rented the main feature through the Amazon rental scheme, so cannot comment on the extra features on Disc 2. Having said this, I wish that I had rented both discs as watching the film left me absolutely intrigued by the case and wanting to know more.
For the movie itself - it is an incredibly involving and at times shocking insight into how a seemingly ordinary family is torn apart by allegations of child abuse brought against the father and youngest son in the Friedman family. While the allegations themselves seem highly implausible, your certainty about this is always being undercut by potentially relevant evidence the other way. For example, the revelation that Arnold Friedman admitted to 2 incidents of instances where "he took liberties" with young boys when on summer vacation at his beach house, also the suggestion that he had a coercive relationship with his younger brother aged 8 when he was 11. While the brother himself denies this flatly, I am not sure that anyone would be brave enough to be filmed on a documentary - with his partner sat next to him all the while, although this is only suggested late in the movie when the camera fades out to a wider view as opposed to a talking head - admitting to this.
What was most fascinating was the footage filmed by one of the brothers in the time after Arnold had been arrested. The family pretty much divides along gender lines, with the boys vehemently denying that the allegations could be true with the mother saying that "she does not know." There is the whole issue of whether there was almost an unspoken compact between the father and the sons he had potentially abused versus the mother on the outside of this relationship. This comes into focus in the disputed version of events between Jesse and his lawyer when plea bargaining - the lawyer stating that Jesse admitted that his father had regularly abused him while he was growing up while Jesse states that the lawyer suggested he testify in this way to get a reduced sentence. Some of the denial from the oldest son, David, seemed so strident that I wondered whether this was part of a blocking mechanism.
What really made the film gripping was the absence of the main character (and one of the brothers) who the allegations were levelled against, Arnold Freeman. By the time the film was made, he had committed suicide, so the director could not ask him. Even while he was on film at home after the arrest had been made but before he was sentenced, he seems to have very little to say about what has happened while all around him are arguing and tearing strips out of each other. You could read this as the weary response of a beaten man. Alternatively, it could be the reaction of a man who knows he has done something wrong, though quite what we will never know. Interestingly, the one time in the film where he looks relaxed and happy with his family is the night before he received sentencing.
Arnold Freeman obviously was a paedophile, as the shocking testimony of one witness shows when he got excited by a 4 year while he was being visited in prison, but this doesn't necessarily mean that the charges against him were valid as many of the witnesses who testified against him appeared in the film to state that they were pretty much led by police and prosecutors to give the desired answers, especially the witness whose memories of abuse came from recovered memory therapy.
I do not know what the truth was after watching this film but I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who wants an intelligent, thought provoking and moving documentary. The interview with the film maker after the feature is also very worth watching. I will be watching the movie again before I send it back in the light of his comments.
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