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Capturing the Friedmans (2004)

Arnold Friedman , Jesse Friedman , Andrew Jarecki  |  NR |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Arnold Friedman, Jesse Friedman, David Friedman, Elaine Friedman, Seth Friedman
  • Directors: Andrew Jarecki
  • Producers: Andrew Jarecki, Jaye Nydick, Jennifer Rogen, Marc Smerling, Peter Bove
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Anamorphic, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: HBO Video
  • DVD Release Date: January 27, 2004
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000SXK0Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,334 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Capturing the Friedmans" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Featurette: Unseen home videos of the Friedmans
  • Short film about Jesse Friedman's life today
  • Short film by director Andrew Jarecki about children's birthday party clowns, which led to the discovery of David Friedman's story
  • Charlie Rose interview with the director
  • Questions, answers and heated debates captured by filmmakers and members of the Friedman family
  • On-the-scene footage of the altercation with law enforcement officials at the film's New York premiere
  • More on the case, including compelling new evidence, witnesses, and uncut footage of the prosecution's star witness and DVD-ROM content

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, and with over $3 million at the box office to date, Capturing The Friedmans is nothing short of the most riveting, provocative, and hotly debated films of the year. Despite their predilection for hamming it up in front of home-movie cameras, the Friedmans were a normal middle-class family living in the affluent New York suburb of Great Neck. One Thanksgiving, as the family gathers at home for a quiet holiday dinner, their front door explodes, splintered by a police battering ram. Officers rush into the house, accusing Arnold Friedman and his youngest son Jesse of hundreds of shocking crimes. The film follows their story from the public?s perspective and through unique real footage of the family in crisis, shot inside the Friedman house. As the police investigate, and the community reacts, the fabric of the family begins to disintegrate, revealing provocative questions about truth, justice, family, and -ultimately-truth. With an abundance of exclusive DVD bonus features supplied on a second disc, Capturing the Friedmans is sure to capture you and pin you to your seat.

A Sundance Grand Jury prize winner and a true conversation starter, Capturing the Friedmans travels into one apparently ordinary Long Island family's heart of darkness. Arnold and Elaine Friedman had a normal life with their three sons until Arnold was arrested on multiple (and increasingly lurid) charges of child abuse. Because the Friedmans had documented their own lives with copious home movies, filmmaker Andrew Jarecki is able to sift through their material looking for clues. Yet what emerges is more surreal than fiction: the youngest Friedman son went to jail, the eldest became a birthday-party clown. In the end, we can't be sure whether Arnold Friedman is a monstrous child molester or the victim of railroading. The portrait of a disconnected family is deeply disturbing, either way, and this film is further proof that a documentary can be just as spellbinding as anything a great storyteller dreams up. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and Powerful March 9, 2004
Having being drawn to recent documentary features such as Spellbound, I took a chance on Andrew Jarecki's 'Capturing the Friedmans', having heard and read little about it. It is, without a doubt, one of the most compelling and troubling films I have ever seen. I won't re-hash the story as other reviewers have done that already, but would urge you to buy this film. Once the main feature is over you are desperate for more information, more clues and the second disc in the set goes some way to satiating that need.
The beauty of the film, expressed by Jarecki in both his commentary and in a Charlie Rose interview, is that it finally provides - albeit too late - the fair trial that the Friedmans should have been granted. Whatever the 'truth' of the story is, and we may never really know, the prejudice that was brought to bear on the case by the police, judiciary, the community and the media made it impossible for this most complicated family to be accorded their constitutional rights. We, the audience, are the jury now. Jarecki provides both prosecution and defence cases and we are left to decide the guilt.
Quite apart from the compelling material, which makes this film so much more thrilling than any Hollywood drama of recent memory, the film is beautifully shot. Jarecki exposes evidence carefully so that just when you feel that your mind is made up something is thrown in that broadsides you. Andrea Morricone's beautiful music is the perfect accompaniment to the anguish that the viewer feels throughout this painful quest for the 'truth'. The film's website ( a worthy partner to the film with some unheard audio footage, and is well worth visiting.
This is not quite an enjoyable film - the material too uncomfortable for that - but it is one that should be seen. Make sure you watch it with someone as all you will want to do afterwards is discuss it - and then you'll want to watch it again.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable, Provocative, Compelling January 31, 2004
By A Customer
In advance, it is helpful to know that this documentary originally was intended to be a light-hearted piece about professional birthday-party clowns in Manhattan, but the familial heavy baggage of one of its primary subjects, oldest son David Friedman, led to this darker and more compelling story of a family destroyed by human flaws and fate. The viewer can opine whether the cost to these individuals was appropriate and justified. And the viewer also can become emotionally invested in whether any redemption or restitution is still in the future for members of this family.
"Capturing the Friedmans" is a short synthesis of many hours of available documentation from multiple sources, reflecting snowballing events that occurred over months and years during the mid to late 1980s in Long Island, New York. In the shadow of the California "McMartin pre-school" alleged sexual abuse scandal, the somewhat unassuming and admired schoolteacher/musician Arnold Friedman was caught by postal examiners receiving and sending pedophilia pornography.
This aberration evolved during Arnie's childhood, was acted on to at least a limited degree twice in adulthood, and was a source of guilt and worry to him with respect to his own three sons. A subsequent zealous investigation resulted in Arnie and youngest son Jesse, 18, being accused of sexually abusing many young boys during home computer classes. Under conditions interpreted as nearly hopeless for the defense, both ultimately felt forced to plead guilty to hundreds of counts of abuse. Jesse was recently freed after serving 13 years of a 6-18 year sentence. After an insurance provision was satisfied wherein Jesse would be the beneficiary, Arnold committed suicide in 1995 during his 10-30 year prison term.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This family took the fun out of dysfunctional September 30, 2006
An utterly fascinating look at the crash and burn of an American family.

The father, Arnie Friedman, was witness to his mother's inappropriate and self-serving sexual activity; unsurprisingly, he turns out to be a pedophile whose penchant for buying kiddie mags gets him investigaged for child rape. His wife, Elaine, who looks like the years with Arnie has sucked the life out of her, walks around in a fog, totally bewildered that a)she married such a creepy little freak and b)her three boys prefers dad to her. Oldest son Dave is in his own state of denial about his father's problems and blames it all on mom. The most sympathetic figure is youngest boy Jesse, who was imprisoned for 13 years for a most unsympathetic crime.

Did Arnie and Jesse rape those little boys? The interviewed accuser comes across as less than credible - he contradicts himself, can't remember the first episode of molestation (though remembers plenty else) and when asked to explain an important detail, hesitates as though he were thinking "what the heck do I say now?" The Feds appear to have been caught up in the same hysteria that got a bunch of innocent day care providers tossed in prison in the 1980s - they used interview techniques that were more like criminal interrogations and hypnosis (reknown for inducing false memories.) Way to manipulate and damage little kids, you dumb cops.

In any case, Arnie is a self-admitted pedophile and his taste for child porn victimizes his whole family, especially Jesse (possibly in more ways than one.) Despite this, his boys absolutely adore him. It's hard to understand why - on their home movies, dad comes across as an emotional dud, with a flat affect and a distant stare.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A family crisis of the worst sort
The creators of CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS (2003) did their best to present all sides of this horrendous story and to not take an editorial stance. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Annie Van Auken
3.0 out of 5 stars Movie biased to reflect families "innocence"
This documentary reflects only the family side of the situation when both the son & father claim their innocent. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Debi S.
5.0 out of 5 stars GIFT FOR SON
Published 6 months ago by DELILAH
Spanning several lives of a family that lived in Great Neck, this film talks about all the events that transpired in their lives and brought the truth out. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Harkanwar Anand
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best documentaries made.
Riveted with suspense, intrigue, mystery, you are left holding a key to a door you can't find. Highly entertaining and painful at times, Capturing the Friedmans exposes a family... Read more
Published 9 months ago by E. Darrington
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbleavable
I thought it was a great movie, who would have thought that the youngest son would have been involved with his sick fathers behavior.
Published 9 months ago by leslie foster
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes my family look normal!
Really interesting. Read the latest info on line to get a more realistic look at the real story!
I think that there was a witch hunt that got out of hand, but I think there... Read more
Published 9 months ago by KLaw
3.0 out of 5 stars Sad Story of True Crime
When I selected this documentary, I needed to watch a documentary as part of a documentary class. I'm not a regular watcher of documentaries, and selected this movie because of my... Read more
Published 16 months ago by cmarielandis
4.0 out of 5 stars They Did Not
According to Newsday, in March 2013, they did not do these awful crimes. Although the documentary was well done and informative, it never answered the question. Read more
Published 18 months ago by T. Nankervis
4.0 out of 5 stars Really well done- a bit depressing.
The subject matter is a bit depressing. Very good real-life drama. It's enjoyable because it lets the audience draw their own conclusions, however, this can also be a bit... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Katy Hannah
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