Capturing the Friedmans

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  • Topic: Family, Capturing the Friedmans, David
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  • Published : April 10, 2011
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Capturing The Friedmans

Andrew Jarecki's 2003 documentary, "Capturing the Friedmans", is the tragic story of an affluent family from Long Island, NY., that is falling apart after Arnold and Jesse Friedman are both charged with unspeakable crimes against children.

In the opening interview, David, the eldest of three sons, begins to tell the viewer of his fond childhood memories, and the film appears to be about the life of a clown. But the theme quickly changes direction only moments later, as we hear the beginnings of what will eventually lead to the emotional death of a family unit.

In 1987, in a seemingly normal middle-class family, Arnold and Jesse (David's father and brother) are charged with sexual abuse and molestation. Arnold Friedman is a Columbia graduate and a school teacher, and his wife Elaine, a mother and housewife. They, and their three sons David, Seth, and Jessie appear happy, before the story begins to unfold.

The power and validity of this film comes not from its controversial subject matter, but more from the unbiased way in which the story is presented. Jarecki gives the viewer facts that could be used to argue for both sides.

The bond between the parents was broken, Arnold and Elaine appeared stuck in a loveless relationship, and the boundaries between the parents and the children became less pyramid like and more horizontal as the power shifted. Arnold seems to be the only one in the family who had maintained strict lines of personal privacy, and he held that power over his wife and children. When Arnold fell, it was described by Elaine's metaphor "If there is a rowboat and its sinking, and the rowboat is tied to a rock, you have to disconnect the rowboat, even though the rock is sinking."- Not very eloquent, but the meaning is clear.

There is use of juxtaposition in such scenes as when Elaine is asked a question about what she knew, and her face is almost sympathetic toward Arnold momentarily, but she breaks out in...
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