Andrew Jarecki is an American filmmaker, musician, and entrepreneur. He is best known for Capturing the Friedmans, which won eighteen international prizes including the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the New York Film Critics Circle award, and was nominated for an Academy Award. It has also been the subject of scrutiny from child sex abuse victims and the Nassau County district attorney’s office.
Jarecki graduated from Princeton University in 1985. The co-founder/CEO of Moviefone, which provides film schedules over the internet and telephone and was sold to AOL in 1999. He is the brother of documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki and half-brother of filmmaker Nicholas Jarecki. With producer J. J. Abrams, Jarecki cowrote the theme song to Felicity, "New Version of You." His first narrative feature, All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, and Frank Langella, was released in 2010. He also produced the documentary Catfish with his filmmaking partner Marc Smerling.
Capturing the Friedmans controversy
Jarecki’s 2003 documentary Capturing the Friedmans covered the case of Arnold and Jesse Friedman, the father and son convicted of child molestiation in 1988. Jarecki raises questions over their guilt in the film and has since been campaigning for Jesse’s conviction to be overturned. The documentary was nominated for an Academy Award, however, the Seattle Times wrote, “’documentary’ may be a misnomer, according to child-abuse experts who point out that director Andrew Jarecki intentionally omitted lots of damning evidence against the Friedmans to maintain a "Rashomon"-like film with no clear judgments — and effectively acting as son Jesse Friedman's advocate.”
The Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence wrote, “Our research into the case shows that the director of the film sacrificed truth in favor of creating artistic ambiguity. Clear evidence is omitted and facts are distorted. In addition, the film relies on popular but erroneous myths about child sexual abuse. As a result, uncertainty is created about the guilt of two confessed pedophiles -- who are recast as victims -- while the real victims -- the boys and their families -- are portrayed as untrustworthy.”
Victims speak out against film
Several victims have spoken out against the film and the actions of Jarecki in its production. A mother of one of thirteen molestation victims told The New York Times that Jarecki, "ignored and hid evidence that Jesse was guilty and didn't reach out to actual victims, because I never heard from him." When asked by the Times how many victims he spoke to, Jarecki said, "I don’t know how many I spoke to."
Two victims, who in 2004 were a 24-year-old law student and a 27-year-old businessman, authored a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, telling them, "We did not lie. We did not exaggerate. We were never hypnotized to tell our stories." The Times wrote that the victims said Jarecki had "twisted the facts." The two victims went on to tell the Academy that if they award the film an Oscar, "it will be won at the expense of silencing the plaintive voices of abused children once again, just as our own voices were silenced 16 years ago by the threats and intimidation of our tormentors."
Another witness “deeply regretted participating in the film” and added “when he later saw how Jarecki distorted his interview, it “made [him] nauseous.”
One other victim said “he was upset to learn that his previous conversation with Andrew Jarecki had been covertly recorded and that he felt “tricked” by Jarecki.
Evidence omitted from film and investigation
One of the victims’ mother also told the Times that the film omitted co-defendant, Ross Goldstein, who also pleaded guilty to the same charges and had also supported the accusations made by the victims. Jarecki also omitted Jesse’s prison confession that aired on Geraldo Rivera's talk show in 1989. The mother further added, "What fame is there in making a film about a pedophile who's a pedophile? He had all the evidence, and for some reason he chose not to use it."
The New York Times reported that Jarecki had been “inconsistent in responding to some questions about his research.” He was “asked repeatedly” by the Times whether he knew of a lie-detector test that Jesse had failed during the investigation. Jarecki said he had no knowledge, but in an online interview, had said, “he spoke in detail about the lie-detector test, saying he considered it inconclusive.”
Nassau County upholds conviction
In a June 2013 review of the investigation, evidence and new materials, Nassau County district attorney, Kathleen Rice, wrote in the 155 page report that, "By any impartial analysis, the reinvestigation process prompted by Jesse Friedman, his advocates and the Second Circuit, has only increased confidence in the integrity of Jesse Friedman’s guilty plea and adjudication as a sex offender." Rice assembled an independent advisory panel to conduct the review. The panel included the founder of the Innocence Project, an organization which works to overturn wrongful convictions.
The review team specifically took issue with information both provided and not provided by Jarecki, writing, “And, filmmakers Jarecki and Smerling were not forthcoming with evidence under their control. Though both told witnesses and the public that they possessed swaths of evidence capable of “proving” Jesse Friedman’s innocence, this material was not shared with the Review Team or the Advisory Panel until 2012. Even then, the information that they chose to share was partial, thereby rendering it of poor evidentiary quality.”
The team wrote that Jarecki took two years negotiating his role in the process, and that he “imposed several unrealistic demands,” while providing “only parts of recorded interviews.” They went on to note that interviews with Jesse Friedman, members of the Friedman family, and with the codefendant, Goldstein, were never shared by Jarecki with the review team.
Betty Beauty pubic hair dye
Andrew Jarecki’s wife, Nancy Jarecki, founded Betty Beauty, a company that sells colored dye for pubic hair. Andrew Jarecki serves as treasurer of the company, and when asked if he has used the product, Nancy told the New York Post, “He’s very supportive, it would be safe to assume that everyone close to me has tried it.”
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- "CONVICTION INTEGRITY REVIEW: PEOPLE V. JESSE FRIEDMAN". Nassau County. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- Wallach, Van. "Portraying ambiguity". Princeton Alumi Weekly. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
- "AOL buys MovieFone". CNN Money. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- Solomon, Deborah (February 4 2011). "The Reagan Evolution". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- Baumgarten, Marjorie. "From the Vaults: Keeping Up With the Jareckis". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- "Andrew Jarecki". Bikini Robot Army. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- "Andrew Jarecki Interview: Director Discusses "All Good Things"". FilmSlate. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- Longworth, Karina. "Doc or Not, Catfish Is Stranger Than Fiction". The Village Voice. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- Sacks, Mike. "Jesse Friedman On His Sex Abuse Conviction". HuffPost Live. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
- Rahner, Mark (30 January 2004). "Capturing a family's disturbing, riveting story". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
- "Capturing the Friedmans". The Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
- Waxman, Sharon (24 February 2004). "Victims Say Film on Molesters Distorts Facts". Retrieved 20 December 2013.
- "CONVICTION INTEGRITY REVIEW: PEOPLE V. JESSE FRIEDMAN". Nassau County. p. 105. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- "CONVICTION INTEGRITY REVIEW: PEOPLE V. JESSE FRIEDMAN". Nassau County. p. 113. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- "CONVICTION INTEGRITY REVIEW: PEOPLE V. JESSE FRIEDMAN". Nassau County. p. ii. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- Applebome, Peter (24 June 2013). "Teenager’s 1988 Sexual-Abuse Conviction Was Justified, Report Says". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
- "CONVICTION INTEGRITY REVIEW: PEOPLE V. JESSE FRIEDMAN". Nassau County. p. 62-63. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
- "CONVICTION INTEGRITY REVIEW: PEOPLE V. JESSE FRIEDMAN". Nassau County. p. 153. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
- "Betty is Born". Betty Beauty. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
- Smith, Austin (30 November 2008). "‘DOWN THERE’ DYES FOR GUYS!". The New York Post. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
- Andrew Jarecki at the Internet Movie Database
- An Interview with Jarecki
- British Film Institute interview
- NPR Interview