Making a disturbing, labyrinthine documentary about alleged Long Island pedophiles is not the most logical career move for a man who cofounded Moviefone and cowrote the ''Felicity'' theme song. And, to be fair, that's not what first-time director Andrew Jarecki had in mind before he made ''Capturing the Friedmans,'' which won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at Sundance earlier this year. ''I started out making a movie about children's birthday-party entertainers in New York City,'' he says. ''I thought that would be an interesting little movie.''
But Jarecki was transfixed by the story of one particular clown, David Friedman, whose family had been subject to turmoil and disgrace after his father and brother were accused of sexually abusing young boys. In interviews with family members, victims, prosecutors, and others, Jarecki follows the Friedmans' story from before the allegations through the criminal trials, interspersing excerpts from family videos -- including a contentious Passover seder during dad Arnold's trial. Through it all, the director keeps the audience guessing: Was this an open-and-shut case of pedophilia or a horrifying example of communal hysteria? Jarecki doesn't provide an easy answer. ''My opinion about what happened in the case changed so many times,'' he says. ''The most important thing with this film is being able to leave with your own opinion.''