A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film discusses a father and son accused and convicted of many counts of child sexual abuse. The film includes explicit discussion of incest, anal and oral sodomy, and child pornography. There are also intense scenes involving a father committing suicide, heated arguments between family members, and adults recalling childhood sexual abuse.
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What's the story?
Using bittersweet loops from family movies and gripping scenes of confessional-style interviews, CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS recounts the arrests and convictions of a father and son for child molestation in the 1980s. Arthur and his son Jesse were accused of committing hundreds of rapes during the computer lessons they taught to elementary school children in their Long Island basement. Precipitated by a police investigation into Arthur's child pornography collection, the arrests plunged his middle class Jewish household into a media storm and divisive family crisis. Told via family video footage before, during, and after Arthur and Jesse's arrests, Capturing the Friedmans relates the effects of the crimes on the relationships between the various family members. Viewers learn how these family dynamics influenced the decisions that Arthur and Jesse make while defending themselves in court.
Is it any good?
Capturing the Friedmans is unrelenting in its honesty and, as a result, it has moments of being utterly painful to watch. The Friedman family's penchant for self-chronicling yields a layered, complex examination of how they dealt with a crippling crisis. David, the eldest Friedman son, refuses to believe that his father could harbor sexual feelings for young boys and Elaine candidly admits to suffering from an acute depression. Moments of extreme introspection like these make Capturing the Friedmans as fascinating as it is excruciating.
This documentary could raise many opportunities for families to discuss issues related to sexual abuse. Yet because so many of the interviews and scenes involving family discussions are emotionally intense and filled with frank descriptions of sex crimes, parents should be wary of letting kids watch it alone. That said, this is documentary filmmaking at its best -- but it's still best watched by those mature enough to handle the very serious subject matter.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about police investigation procedures. Why might Arthur and Jesse Friedman be innocent? Families could also discuss David's reactions to his father's and brother's arrests. Why was he so angry with his mother? Was he right in believing his father and brother without question? Families could also discuss Elaine Friedman's reaction to her husband's and son's arrests. Why was she eager to have her son confess to something he insists that he didn't do? How would you have felt in a similar situation?
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