Startling documentary about an American family torn apart by sexual scandal
In a year of searing documentaries, Andrew Jarecki’s film redefines “incredible”. You don’t want to believe these are true stories, but nervously accept that, granted the self-serving lily-gilding of some witnesses, they are. It’s as much a study of ubiquitous dysfunction as it is of how paedophiles reason their actions. It’s harrowing, grisly, but hypnotically watchable.
Jarecki stumbled on the tale almost by accident. Following “clown”David Friedman around, he was pulled into Friedman’s bizarre, ghoulish family history. In the ’80s, in a New York suburb, Friedman’s father Arnold and brother Jesse were arrested for multiple crimes of child molestation. A community was in uproar. Jarecki interviews witnesses and police?some more candid than others. Then he finds that the Friedman family have a heap of home movies, recording their strife and blow-ups as the trials loom. With these, he can make a pulsating, unnerving patchwork narrative of many-layered tragedy. The horror, the horror.