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.



The Depress-A-Thon: Deliver Us From Evil by Jamie

The sad fact is that lately I have just been too damn happy. Things have been going relatively well and life is generally quite good. This, of course, cannot stand. I need to create some kind of balance and so to that end I have decided to embark on a special project, The Depress-A-Thon. I will watch some of the most depressing films that I know about, review them here and see just how watching as many as I can affects me. It’s kind of a science experiment if science experiments were conducted in hugely unscientific ways.

Now there is a small problem in that some of the films that will be included in The Depress-A-Thon have already been reviewed on this site. I’m not sure yet whether I will re-review them in the context of the marathon or simply post up the old reviews. I guess it’ll all depend on how I feel.

So let’s start with a little film called ‘Deliver Us From Evil’, a documentary from 2006 directed by Amy J. Berg. It mainly revolves around Oliver O’Grady, a grandfatherly old Irish man with a twinkle in his eye. He also happens to be a despicable monster. No, that’s not right. I generally dislike it when people call others who commit horrendous acts monsters. I feel it’s a bit of a cop-out, as if their trying to remove their actions from within the parameters of humanity. So no, O’Grady is not a despicable monster, he’s a despicable human being.

You see, it turns out that O’Grady was a catholic priest who, from the period of the late 70s to the early 90s, abused, molested and raped at least twenty-five children, the youngest being only nine months old. The first half or so of the film mainly deals with O’Grady and how he was moved from parish to parish as his crimes were revealed until he was finally arrested and convicted of his crimes. The second half of the film deals with the larger issue of child abuse within the Catholic Church and the Church’s attempt to keep it covered up.

The film features various interviews with the families involved in the sexual abuse, lawyers, law enforcement and O’Grady himself. The interviews with the victims are, for obvious reasons, the most moving, in particular those involving the Jyono family who are the main family portrayed throughout the family. Bob Jyono in particular becomes very emotional when talking about O’Grady and it’s easy to understand why. He trusted this man so much that he used to let him stay at his house to get away from the stress of the church. Little did he know at the time that whilst the priest was staying there he was raping his five year old daughter, Ann.

The most interesting interviews, however, are those with O’Grady himself. It’s incredible to watch because the man seemingly has no concept of just how reprehensible the things he has done are. He talks about raping children almost as if it he’d committed a minor transgression against these families, perhaps something akin to accidentally over feeding a pet goldfish or something. It’s a bizarre thing to see. The man has clearly managed to disassociate himself completely from the severity of his crimes. There’s a moment where he is writing letters to his victims, sitting in his Irish home after being deported from America and living on an annuity from the church, who he honestly thinks might want to see him again, discuss the events and hopefully shake his hand. The most remorse you hear from him are the words “It should not have happened,” but even this statement lacks any kind of sincerity.

As stated before the second half of the film deals more with the problem of abuse of children by priests within the Catholic Church as a whole and presents an organisation which is very much about saving face and money. It is shown that they actively move shamed priests from one parish to another without informing the local community or local law enforcement of their pasts. They also ignore the cries of the victims themselves for as long as they can before moving the priest, lying to them and telling them that they won’t be allowed access to children ever again.

There is discussion about reasons that child abuse seems to be such a problem within the Church. One suggested reason is that it’s because Catholic priests are forced to remain celibate. Combined with the fact that many of them begin training for the priest hood right around the time they enter puberty means that they never get to mature psychosexually in the way that a normal person would. Obviously this doesn’t cause all priests to become paedophiles but it could explain why there seem to be such a higher number of cases within the Catholic Church compared with the population at large. It is also suggested that it is this stunting of their sexual growth that causes them to be attracted to children, people who they perceive as mental equals when it comes to matters of a sexual nature. It’s an interesting theory and one that I can see making sense although I’m just as inclined to believe that they abuse children simply because they are the most vulnerable members of their flock.

The film is a stark, shocking look at the problem of child abuse within the Catholic Church today and the Church’s response to it. It certainly feels a bit one sided but then again it would be very difficult for it to be any other way especially considering the Catholic Church refused to be interviewed for the documentary as well as refusing to speak to some of O’Grady’s victims after they had flown to the Vatican hoping for some kind of closure. It’s a film that is actually more likely to make you angry then depressed, though it certainly isn’t very uplifting.

Overall I give this film five pints out of five and I highly recommend it, if you can stomach the subject matter. Tomorrow The Depress-A-Thon continues with ToddSolondz’s ‘Happiness’




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