Capturing the Friedmans

Director: Andrew Jarecki

Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


Family life has always been essentially a private preserve, a world of secrets and closed doors, of guarded relationships and unattractive truths that never see the light of day. Andrew Jarecki's film, Capturing the Friedmans, is such an amazing revelation because it does what the title promises: captures a family on film. It creates a portrait which is complex, ambivalent, and absolutely engrossing because of video. Home movies were limited to recording special events, but the development of home video changed all that and made this film possible.

The Friedmans are a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes. Caught up in hysteria and with their Great Neck community in an uproar, the family undergoes a media onslaught. But they shot the really interesting footage themselves.

Given access to the family videos, Jarecki constructs his film as an investigation, but our expectations are constantly subverted. The film inquires not just into the life of a family but into a community, a legal system, and an era. By constantly changing perspectives and keeping the audience's judgments and understanding in flux, Capturing the Friedmans embodies the difficulty of capturing the truth.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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