Director Jarecki tries to appear like he’s staying out of Capturing the Friedmans. His voice occasionally appears behind the camera when interviewing but these questions are usually for effect. Jarecki is deliberate in the construction of the documentary; he only lets it get away from him once.
Capturing the Friedmans examines a sensational child abuse case from the eighties involving Arnold Friedman and his son, Jesse. Jesse Friedman, his older brother David Friedman and their mother, Elaine Friedman, are the principal interviewees. At least after the first third or so, where Jarecki concentrates on the police and prosecutors, who are all sure of the defendants’ guilt.
Once Jarecki focuses on the story from the Friedmans’ perspective, he’s able to use a lot of home movie footage. Both Arnold and David Friedman were home movies enthusiasts, though Arnold made idyllic family home movies while David used the technology to chronicle his father and brother’s legal dealings and their family’s collapse. That element Jarecki can’t control? Having David Friedman as protagonist while the home movie footage shows him berating his mother.
Jarecki can stay out of Friedmans all he wants, but certain elements–like how he’s able to use that private home movie footage–should be made clear. There are a number of devices Jarecki utilizes to sway his viewer. Like when Jarecki needlessly shows the possibly overzealous cop has a George W. Bush coffee mug.
Or all of Andrea Morricone’s lovely, if saccharine, score.
Friedmans is a well-made, reductive package.
Directed by Andrew Jarecki; director of photography, Adolfo Doring; edited by Richard Hankin; music by Andrea Morricone; produced by Jarecki and Marc Smerling; released by Magnolia Pictures.