If you ever needed more proof that we live in a horrible, horrible world, then this is it. The movie is coming confidently from the new wave of docu-cinema brought back to the mainstream by Moore’s ‘Bowling for Columbine’, and cemented there by more recent beacons of hope such as ‘Touching the Void’, ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Etre et Avoir’.This is the fair trial that the Friedmans never received after Arnold Friedman (father) was arrested for receiving and forwarding child pornography. But just because it is fair does not dull the severity of the subject, and you will be seriously unsettled by the ensuing paranoid witch-hunt that led to both him and his youngest son serving lengthy prison terms for supposed child abuse.
As much a study of family dynamics (or rather the collapse of) and the effects of such trauma on individuals, this is not easy viewing. While the movie has been often written off by the American presses as pro-Friedman (a most heinous crime, tantamount to being pro-paedophile apparently), I would like to point out that it is possible to try and tell a different story to the one that forced two people into jail without necessarily being in that party’s favour. While serious (italics simply are not enough to display how much I’m emphasising this word) doubt is cast over whether any child abuse actually took place in the house, the fact that Friedman was a paedophile with an immense library of child pornography is never glossed over. The movie simply illustrates that being guilty of one crime is not indicative of guilt of another.
Told through a mixture of video footage (the extent of which is truly amazing; The Friedman’s obsession with filming every single aspect of their lives, even through such difficult times, is extraordinary and indicative of the abnormality in the family as a functioning whole) and interviews (some of which are tear-inducingly painful to watch), this is similar in format to the climbing docu-drama ‘Touching the Void’. But you certainly won’t be walking home with a warm fuzzy feeling about the strength of the human spirit from this one. Instead, you’ll be questioning everything you think you know about the subject matter.No viewpoint is ever thrust down your throat. Instead all of the evidence is presented and you are left to make up your own mind. I urge you to watch it, simply because it shows that certain crimes are crying out to be treated as the mental diseases that they are, rather than written off as ‘evil’, or simply because this kind of film needs to be encouraged, and nothing speaks louder than the notes in your wallet.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.