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Masterpiece Cinema - Capturing the Friedmans

 article about Top movie reviews
Welcome back, everybody. How are you all? This week, I think were going to take a look at this columns first documentary.

"Capturing the Friedmans"

Starring Arnold Friedman, Elaine Friedman, David Friedman, Seth Friedman, Jesse Friedman (as themselves).

Directed by Andrew Jarecki.
Genre: Documentary
Released: 2003
Running time: 107 mins.
Rated: 15 (UK rating for adult themes and language).
IMDb link: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0342172/

"Capturing
the Friedmans," ironically enough, began as a documentary about the
lives of professional clowns. Andrew Jarecki, the guy who started
Moviefone.com in America and is now a millionaire as a result of it,
had a childhood fascination with magicians and clowns, and now that he
had the time and money to do whatever the hell he wanted, decided hed
make a documentary about these entertainers. He began by taking a look
at highly successful New York clown Silly Billy, a performer whod
worked for such celebrities as Eddie Murphy and Susan Sarandon in
entertaining their kids at birthday parties.

But Jarecki, as
he researched the life of Silly Billy - or, using his real name, David
Friedman found a much more interesting story to tell. It turned out
that, in the late 1980s, David Friedmans father and brother were
arrested on child pornography and molestation charges. This fact was
something that David, as a childrens entertainer, had been trying to
escape for the majority of his life. But the weight of this must have
been too much for him, and he felt that maybe, by telling the story of
his family, he could clear the air a little and maybe put some kind of
rest to the whole sordid thing.

As the movie opens, you get
glimpses of what appears to be an otherwise perfectly normal, upper
middle-class family: a father, a mother, three kids, all living in the
suburbs. But its not long before the hints of something sinister begin
to show, culminating in the arrest of father Arnold Friedman and
youngest son, Jesse Friedman. But were both father and son guilty of
the charges they were arrested for?

The amazing thing
about "Capturing the Friedmans" is the amount of primary resource
footage there is in it. The Friedmans were a family that loved
documenting their lives. From the birth of the first child, the family
had a camera with which they were forever recording themselves and this
didnt stop when the allegations against Arnold and Jesse were brought
forth. It feels almost voyeuristic as we are invited in to watch the
implosion of an otherwise normal family, all of them trying to deal
with the idea that two people they love have been accused of one of the
most heinous things a human being can do. Some of the family members go
into denial, others just shut down. Unlike any other documentary, the
audience is offered a true insight into the lives of its subjects.

Michael
Moore is playing on my mind at the moment, having just seen "Fahrenheit
9/11" (and having absolutely loved it). I think Moores films are funny,
insightful, and act as a genuine community service. But theyre flawed
in that they arent documentaries. They make next to no effort to
present the other side of the argument, which is always the best way to
engage your audience and win over your detractors. Moores films are
more excellent examples of a one-sided argument or even propaganda than
they are of documentary-making. But with "Capturing the Friedmans,"
Andrew Jarecki allows for all sides of the issue to have their say, and
credits the audience enough to allow them to make up their own minds.
Just as youve started to draw your conclusions on the case, a new piece
of information is revealed that makes you double take and rethink
everything.

"Capturing the Friedmans" is, quite obviously, a
confrontational film to watch. But its also powerful, thought provoking
and, above all, quite human. I look forward to seeing what else Jarecki
has to offer us.

Next week: Its the seventh series of "The Contenders," the latest hit reality TV series!



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