24. Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

Date First Watched: Late 2005
Date Last Watched: 1/07/2008
# Viewings: 4

While we were on holiday in the Gold Coast in 2005, I was channel surfing and as soon as I laid eyes on this film, I was engrossed. I thought it was amazing and it never fails to move me every time I watch it. I end up crying every time.

This is my favourite documentary of all time. It’s so effective for me because it’s such a devastating story and because it’s a little more personal than other documentaries; this documentary is not about proving whether or not Jesse and Arnold did these acts, it’s about how the accusations led to their family falling apart and destroying their lives. This is not to take away from any children who may (or may not have) been molested, but this film is not about them; it’s about the Friedman’s.

I feel like the film has a slightly ulterior motive in proving Jesse’s innocence as it certainly seems to push that opinion (which I believe is true), but I think gives a generally fair account of what happened from all sides, but again, it’s main purpose is not to say he did or didn’t do it, but to show this family dealing with it. And since they believe it’s not true, obviously that is going to be the main feeling that comes through. I don’t feel that it’s a manipulative film, but there are aspects of the editing (like when they show the bits of Jesse as a baby) as a bit of kind ‘hey, feel sympathetic’. But since I already genuinely do, it works for me.

The scenes with David crying to the camera and when Elaine gets emotional are the bits that get me every time. Elaine saying he looked at pictures of boys and ‘meditated’ helps create this image of Elaine as being an innocent and it’s easy to feel sympathetic towards her. It’s also surprising how candidly and open most of the family speak about the events and that honesty also helps create a genuine emotional connection between the audience because it doesn’t feel like they’re cherry-picking what they say.

Not many films really make me care about anyone or make me cry; it takes a very special film to do that, which is what makes this such an amazing film.

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