Director Andrew Jarecki Misses the Facts in Documentary

When it comes to documentary films, it can be difficult for viewers to tell where ethical research leaves off and self-interest steps in. Cineaste Magazine provides a detailed analysis of Capturing the Friedmans, the controversial film directed by Andrew Jarecki and the challenges of theatrical documentaries.

“How we see them [the Friedmans] is a product of Andrew Jarecki’s and editor Richard Hankin’s and composer Andrea Morricone’s pointed esthetic choices. Nor is this, I would contend, simply a bullshit countertruism. Jarecki, like Michael Moore and Steve James and a dozen other ‘cutting-edge’ documentary practitioners, traffics in grossly manipulative dramatic structures and effects of a kind usually associated with classical Hollywood…”

“So what is it, exactly, that Jarecki does to pump the dramatic quotient, hence raise the emotional stakes for his audience?” asks Paul Arthur, author of the Cineaste Magazine feature article. Andrew Jarecki raises the emotional stakes for his film by using certain methods including film editing, interview mixing, and even music:

  • Film editing- Footage found by Jarecki would be snipped into small segments. According to Arthur, the same camera angles, lighting, clothing of the interviewees throughout the film, point to and exhaustive editing and mixing. Additionally, unusual filters and altered footage speed create an unnerving sense for viewers.
  • Interview mixing – Arthur notes Andrew Jarecki chops up interviews and into bite-sized pieces, based on the camera angle, lighting, clothing of the individual being interviewed. Virtually all of the individuals who appear in the film were recorded in one session, yet Jarecki’s film took three years to produce. Therefore the individual pieces would be inserted at contradictory times and dialog throughout.
  • Music- Andrew Jarecki manipulates viewer’s emotional response by choosing particular music compositions in the film. “Emotional responses are pushed,” says Arthur. “Devices such as music played under the (silent) early home movies, and minor cues are give off by claustrophobic compositions…”

A lack of a relevant theme can be seen in Andrew Jarecki’s film. There is a strong emphasis on material that has nothing to do with recorded chronology, or relevance to the legal charges. Nevertheless Jarecki’s fast-paced assertions are undoubtedly exciting for viewers. Andrew Jarecki’s YouTube video highlights the reasons why his film faces a great deal of scrutiny.


“Calling the collection of putative facts and subject memories rehears by Jarecki a can of worms would be an understatement. It is more like a worm farm, and almost no one emerges from the cinematic argument without a slimy and slightly disgusting appearance. None of the people involved in this mess ‘tell their own story’, as in the utterly bankrupt documentary rubric; they engender neither trust nor skepticism, sympathy nor revulsion on their own.”

Read Paul Arthur’s full article, on the Cineaste Magazine website.