Find the latest Christian movie reviews here at! We offer movie reviews from a Christian perspective allowing you to make an informed decision prior to going to the theater. Our Christian movie reviews include your standard movie review information such as release date, rating, genre, run time, director, and actors, but they will also include "cautions" about language, profanity, alcohol, smoking, drug use, violence, crime, religion and morals. You can also find Christian music, Christian video, Christian news and much more all free on Christian Movie Reviews - Family Friendly Entertainment

Capturing the Friedmans

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jan
Capturing the Friedmans
from Film Forum, 09/04/03

Director Andrew Jarecki began working on a documentary about Silly Billy, New York's most successful party clown, David Friedman. He ended up with a much more ambitious film about the man's family history and a scandal that rocked the Long Island town of Great Neck.

Jarecki must have been surprised at Friedman's remarkable generosity in detailing the destruction of his upper-middle-class Jewish family. But by the end of his journey, he had a treasure trove of information from the family as a whole to work with. As it turns out, the Friedman men were obsessed with video cameras. Although David's mother, Elaine, was not so fond of them, his father, Arnold, enthusiastically cooperated with his sons David, Jesse, and Seth in the video documentation of everything from family vacations to dinner conversations.

Thus, in the mid-'80s, when Arnold was arrested on charges of possessing child pornography, the boys began filming their disbelief and their debates about their father's level of guilt. They even filmed Arnold being taken away from the house.

That was just the beginning. Soon, they were filming their own emotional breakdowns as the community came alive with accusations about perverse sex crimes that allegedly took place in the Friedmans' basement, where Arnold, with the help of his sons, taught computer classes to children from the surrounding neighborhood. Many children testified that they had not only been molested, but also raped, as Arnold supposedly lured them into shockingly perverse games. When the middle son, Jesse, at that time 18, was also implicated in the crimes, things started splitting at the seams.

The most compelling thing about Capturing the Friedmans is not, however, what Jarecki discovers about criminal activity behind closed doors. Rather, we are shocked and unsettled by the way our own assumptions about the situation fall apart time and time again. Right away in the film, we think we can figure things out because of the "facts" being delivered by seemingly trustworthy authorities. But then another investigation by more skeptical investigators calls these "facts" into question. Soon we don't know what to believe. All that is clear is this: Mr. Friedman has done something wrong, but he is lying about it and he refuses to clarify needlessly complicated issues. As long as he holds on to his lie, the destruction of his family and of the lives of those around him will continue. It plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy, and makes for one of the most compelling portraits of evil you're ever likely to see on film.

My full review is at Looking Closer.

Gerri Pare (Catholic News Service) says, "The story never slumps as the viewer is continually called upon to size up who is credible and who seems to be altering the facts. Jarecki also manages not to demonize anyone while at the same time never making light of the serious and repellant nature of the crimes. The result is a troubling, fascinating film that certainly points to the frailty of the human condition."

Jerry Langford (Movieguide) calls it "an artful approach to a genuine American tragedy. It is, therefore, an unpleasant and uninterrupted documentation of sin and its tragic effect on the Friedman family and the community. Though this movie deals with graphic subject matter, it intriguingly sheds the light of truth on tough and rarely discussed issues."

The rave reviews coming in from mainstream critics can be found here.

from Film Forum, 02/26/04

Victor Morton (The Matthews House Project) reviews the troubling documentary Capturing the Friedmans and says it "somehow manages to be, all at the same time—a case study of a terrible miscarriage of justice; a mind-dizzying game on narrative and expectations (its twists truly rival Memento); two father-son love stories; a family meltdown (there are scenes of family quarrels that play like early John Cassavetes or Ingmar Bergman); and a meditation on knowledge and the will to believe."