Family Circus

Troy and I disagree about “Capturing the Friedmans.” While the father, Arnold, was undoubtedly a pedophile, it is doubtful that he and the son Jesse should have been convicted on hundreds of counts of molestation when not a scrap of physical evidence was ever found. The police, caught up in ’80 mass child rape hysteria, told children they would end up gay if they didn’t agree to the detectives’ assertions of occurrences of sodomy. Many of the children only “remembered” these (outrageous) incidents after Recovered Memory Hypnotherapy.
To me the movie was less about the tragedy of Jesse’s innocence — though I do agree with Troy the outline of the movie does not divulge Arnold’s guilt early enough — than the tragedy of seeing a family dissolve in real time with the family videos captured during the time of the trial. There is a very haunting video journal scene that was never meant to make it to the big screen, and the honesty is scary. The real tragedy is that (because of bad advice from lawyers and Arnold’s guilt) Arnold capsizes his whole family. An effort to save Jesse, actually convicts him. A mother vilified for not standing by her family, is simply honestly confused. The children do not seem to understand that she has a different relationship with her husband (wife) which makes the situation more difficult for her.
I believe the film is ambiguous, and that is what is so interesting about it. It was not just some bleeding-heart documentary filmmaker out to do justice (Free the West Memphis Three), because wrongs were done on both sides. This is the type of story you normally see in an independent film (fiction), the fact that it is true and you see original sources makes it all the more haunting.

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