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Capturing the Friedmans

Director: Andrew Jarecki

USA 2003. Colour.107mins.


The extraordinary story of family breakdown in the midst of controversy
New York filmmaker Andrew Jarecki was intent upon making what he thought would be a bittersweet profile of David Friedman; Manhattan’s most successful birthday clown. But there’s nothing matter of fact about Jarecki’s documentary. What Jarecki learned was that the late Friedman patriarch, Arnold, led a tightly knit trio of sons who laughed and kidded around with their dad.What happened later is both sad and confounding: Arnold, a respected and award-winning teacher, was caught in a police sting operation and was found with stacks of kiddie porn; what followed were allegations that he’d sexually molested a huge number of his computing students, all of them minors. His son, Jesse, was also charged in the crimes. Inevitably, a media circus grew up around the arrest and subsequent trial.
What makes Capturing the Friedmans a powerful and disturbing work lies in a technological revolution. Arnie, being a forward-thinking science teacher, was an inveterate home filmmaker, investing in Super 8s, early video cameras and recording technology. These archival films tell the story themselves, as this family never seemed to stop filming itself. Even in horribly troubling times, like after trials and on the verge of jail sentencing, the cameras still roll.

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