Cinepub


Documental: Capturing The Friedmans by Jamie

Even the most unassuming of people can harbour the darkest of secrets. And when those secrets come to the surface they can tear even the most seemingly loving family completely apart. That essentially sums up the premise of the film ‘Capturing the Friedmans’ as directed by Andrew Jarecki.

Arnold Friedman is the aforementioned unassuming man. He was an award winning teacher, taking hundreds of children under his wing to teach them computer classes. He had a seemingly perfect family, a loving wife and three sons. Of course he also had a dark secret otherwise we wouldn‘t be talking about him, would we? What was that dark secret? Well, it seems as though Arnie had a bit of a penchant for kiddie porn. He was captured when the postal service seized some of his mail which turned out to contain items of that nature. They set up a sting operation, Arnie fell for it and he was arrested. Fair enough but it‘s from here that things take a more controversial turn.

Now of course it‘s only natural that when child pornography turns up in the possession of someone who has been teaching children that further investigation is necessary. You’ll want to interview those kids and find out if anything untoward had been going on. It‘s at this point that the film began to remind me of another film, Witch Hunt (which I thought I‘d reviewed but apparently I haven‘t).

The problem with interviewing children is that they can be very eager to please and so will respond to questioning differently depending on the way the questions are asked and the methods used to obtain the answers. To be fair, that‘s probably a sweeping generalisation. I‘m fairly sure most adults will act in the same way when confronted with an authority figure. Anyway, the problem is that it is hinted that the police questioned the children using leading questions, in other words basically telling the children the answers they wanted to hear. They also used hypnosis to try and recover hidden memories which is so fucking irresponsible it pretty much begs belief. You see the suggestive state caused by paralysis is a wonderful way of accidentally implanting false memories which is a bit of a problem when investigating a crime. It should also be noted that there is absolutely no physical evidence that any of the children had been molested at all and the testimony of hundreds of children that absolutely nothing happened.

Due to the testimony of the children, not only is Arnold arrested but so is his eighteen year old son, Jesse. Now, the film never really strongly takes a side with regards to Arnold‘s guilt but it seems as though it‘s pretty much made up it‘s mind that Jesse is innocent. I don‘t know if that’s the reason why but I certainly ended up feeling the same way. With Arnold, I felt he was probably guilty of something but it’s really hard to know for sure. Obviously he should have served time for the possession of child pornography but whether he or not he actually molested children is really up in the air.

What do you do in that situation? Do you take the cautious route and convict someone of a serious crime when there’s the possibility of that they’re or innocent? Or do you accept the fact that when there is still a good amount of reasonable doubt with regards to someone’s guilt that you simply can’t convict them, let them go free and live with the possible consequences that being wrong could lead to? It’s a tough one to be sure.

Still, this film isn‘t just about the arrest and whether or not it was justified. There’s also the more personal story of how these allegations affect the Friedman family as a whole, most importantly the almost complete breakdown of the relationship between the three sons and their mother. The three sons are firmly on the side of their father, believing that the allegations are ridiculous and that he‘s clearly innocent. The mother, Elaine, on the other hand, has lost all emotional attachments to her husband since the whole mess started and, through home movies, you get to see a few huge arguments and the complete lack of respect that the boys now have for their mother essentially seeing her as a traitor to their father. It really is quite devastating to watch.

At the end of the day Capturing The Friedmans is a damn fine film. Nothing is really resolved by it but then I don’t think it’s supposed to be. It’s just a chronicling of the events and all the consequences triggered by them and at that it succeeds admirably. I highly recommend it. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.

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