Documentaries can have the ability to surprise and shock you and Capturing the Friedmans is one of those documentaries, which has a spot in The Documentary Blog’s Top 50. Without knowing anything about it I started watching it and its story is shocking. As the documentary progresses it only keeps getting worse.
The Friedmans seem to be a normal family with a father, mother and three sons. Home videos are shown where the family members are having fun, doing all sort of crazy stuff before the camera. Nothing seems strange, until the name of the father popped up during a federal investigation. A child pornography magazine was sent to him from the Netherlands and undercover agents were sent to his house to find out if the father had ordered them. It turned out that the magazine was only the tip of the iceberg and they found out that he had more of this material in his house. He is also suspected of abusing boys (together with his son) during computer classes he was giving. He got arrested and went to trial.
So this is a very shocking documentary, where we actually hear the stories of two of the sons and the wife. A lot of old footage is also used which was shot by the family itself during the trial. It shows a lot of stress and tension between family members and not everyone being able to cope with it. The documentary makes the viewer decide whether or not they were really guilty and asks questions about their conviction. Personally I do think they are guilty. If you read discussions about the movie it turns out that some facts were not shown during the film, which are important to make a decision.
As a documentary Capturing the Friedmans is excellent as it slowly builds up its story giving the viewer more and more detail. You’ll keep getting shocked by it all as the subject is so horrifying. I do think that the movie manages to give a fairly balanced view of the case and I can understand why the documentary blog has put it in their top 50. As the subject of the movie is something that’s not easy to watch, it’s not something everyone will be able to see, but as a documentary it’s very well made.