Andrew Jarecki's "Capturing The Friedmans."
In 2003, Andrew Jarecki's "Capturing the Friedmans"
quickly became a landmark achievement in the history of non-fiction film, snatching up a Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, generating massive buzz and heated controversy in the wake of its release, and eventually landing an Oscar nomination. The filmmaker's dark investigation into the pedophilia charges against the late Great Neck resident Arnold Friedman and his teenage son Jesse, partially told through the family's uncomfortably intimate home movies from the '80s, capturing the dissolution of an American family in extraordinary detail. It also hinted at the possibility of injustices surrounding some of the charges leveled against the family. Most critics loved it; nobody was sure how to feel about its troubled subjects.
Nearly a decade later, "Capturing the Friedmans" is now available online, free for the month of April, via Indiewire parent company SnagFilms. On the phone with Indiewire last week, Jarecki spoke about the impact the movie had on the Friedman family, why the story probably needs a sequel, and his similarly controversial next project. "Capturing the Friedmans" is embedded at the conclusion of the interview.
When was the last time you watched the film?
I recently showed it to my son, who's about 14, and it was pretty fascinating to see it about 10 years after it came out. I think he had just been curious. It's the kind of movie you show your kid at some point, but not when they're only old enough to watch their first movie.
Do you think it has aged well? Did anything surprise you about it?
There's a feeling, when you're watching the film and haven't for a while, that there are things that have magically developed over time, ways that the film interacts with your own philosophy, beliefs that you hold that you suddenly see espoused in the film. It's interesting me how much that film influenced other things I've done since then. I've always been interested in this idea of looking at these monster stories and trying to really understand the mechanics underneath. That's very much true of this movie I made "All Good Things" as well as "Catfish," which I produced. You look at something people find objectionable and if you really take a long look at it, you realize how different things may be from how they initially appeared.
When specifically are you talking about when you say you see your own philosophies reflected in the film?
I think with respect to the Friedman family, when we went into the film we didn't know that we were making a movie about this legal case. We just went into hoping to make a film about professional children's birthday entertainers. When I started understanding an incredible secret story behind the Friedmans, it became more and more clear that there was this hall of mirrors lying behind that initial impression. As we got deeper and deeper into it, we started to see how the story had been altered over time.
And you wanted to clear things up.
I think we went into it with a lot of compassion for the Friedman family. We didn't know exactly what had happened, but we knew that the way the community reacted to the charges against them was so vicious and one-sided that it would be required for us to try and understand them as people, not one-dimensional evildoers. As we started to get into it, it was clear that there was a true question as to whether these crimes had even taken place.