Capturing the Friedmans

This documentary makes Rashomon seem like Dick and Jane. The Friedmans are a Long Island family who were caught up in the child-abuse hysteria of the ’80s. When Arnold Friedman is found with pornography featuring underage boys, the police basically urge more than a dozen children to claim they were raped by Arnold and his son Jesse. Whether the Friedmans did actually molest any of the boys is an open question, but its clear that improper interrogation techniques, including the use of hypnosis and intimidation, created a number of false accusations against them. In light of the complete absence of physical evidence, it’s hard to imagine that they would have even been charged under contemporary standards, but the ’80s were a different time, when Satanic child abuse was believed to be rampant and a man named Ed Meese tried to eliminate pornography and justice from America. Capturing the Friedmans stands as a memorial to that bizarre age, and to the human capacity for uncritical thought.

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