Capturing the Friedmans (2002)
: Not Rated
: 235 min.
Bonus Disc Special Features:
- Unseen home movies from inside the Friedman house
- Great Neck Outraged
- New witnesses & evidence
- Uncut footage of the prosecution's star witness
- Friedman family scrapbook and hidden audio tapes
- The original short film that led to the discovery of David Friedman's secret story
- Jesse's Life Today
- An altercation at the film's New York premiere
- The Judge speaks out at the Great Neck premiere
- A special DVD-ROM section with key documents from the family and the case
GreenCine Staff Pick, February 26, 2004: One of those times we can confidently call a Bonus Disc essential viewing. Outside the Frame is the companion disc to Andrew Jarecki's brilliant, Oscar-nominated documentary and whereas the feature film went to great pains at impartiality (although some would argue this point) in the case of Arnold and Jesse Friedman, the bonus materials are less obliged to do so, seeming a bit more sympathetic to Jesse's case. But with an incredible array of extras, including previously unseen home movies (seeing Arnie's retirement party is a bit creepy and sad); a very illuminating video FAQ of sorts, taken from real Q&A sessions recorded after screenings, and some intense discussion, the extras here fully round out this heart-wrenching story.
The most significant section of the disc is "The Case," which will raise many new doubts into the merits of Jesse's sentence and incarceration, shedding light by revealing additional suspects in the case. Especially memorable is a damning secret tape (recorded by the mother of one of the Friedman's computer students) wherein the investigators completely badger and prod the boy who was denying anything happened, even going so far as to put words in his mouth. "Your son was a wise guy," said Detective Hatch, "and I didn't like his answers." Also illuminating: seeing more about how Great Neck parents reacted to, and meddled in, the case -- planning strategies, angry phone messages; an update on Jesse today, which I couldn't help but find touching; and the heated discussion that followed the film's premiere, including an angry rebuttal from the judge who presided on the case. It's fascinating to see how high emotions still run in a town that will likely never be the same, especially given the notoriety of the film. Also included on the bonus disc is "Just a Clown," Andrew Jarecki's fun short film featuring David Friedman, the most popular children's party clown in Manhattan, who ultimately, reluctantly, lead Jarecki to his family's dark closet. The short works well on its own, but takes on a whole 'nother subtext than it normally might have. And a Charlie Rose interview with Jarecki rounds out the package nicely.
Capturing the Friedmans, along with its extra materials, is a worthy cousin to PBS seminal 70's series An American Family, which traced the similarly self-destructive behavior of the Loud family (although in that case, the filmmakers were all outsiders, whereas the Friedmans captured much of the footage themselves). After watching the doc and this bonus disc, one is ultimately left with the sinking feeling that most everyone involved in this case was in some way a victim.--Craig Phillips