For a debut film, Andrew Jarecki couldn’t have picked a more controversial or attention-grabbing subject that child sexual abuse. Yet his film dealing with the emotional impact on the family of the accused father and son transcends sensationalism and becomes a consideration on the nature of truth and universality of family life. When I spoke to Jarecki on May 13, 2003, the conversation touched on those subjects as well as the perils of finding distribution for a film like this.
Beyond the riveting look at a family falling apart under the weight of its own emotional baggage, CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS explores the elusive nature of truth. By the end, far from establishing what is and isn’t true, we are left with the unsettling realization that what is real at any given moment for one person may be patently false to another, and yet neither person is necessarily wrong. As for Jarecki’s editorial take on the Friedmans themselves, he is circumspect with value judgments that are, perhaps, not even for the Friedmans to call. That isn’t to say that he sugar coats the very real failings of this family. There are no saints here, but the sinners are portrayed with a surprising compassion that reveals the pain beneath, pain that doesn’t justify, but does explain, much about the Friedmans and, by extension, all of us. CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS is not an easy film, but it is a fascinating one.