Director: Crystal Morselle
Plot: The Wolfpack centres on six brothers from the Lower East Side in Manhattan who are raised sheltered from the outside world with only each other and their movie collection for company.
The majority of us grow up in an environment where we are allowed to progress socially and emotionally through contact with people outside of our home. This is a stark contrast to the Angulo brothers who are the subject of Crystal Moselle’s Sundance prize-winning documentary. The six brothers and their sister have been brought up under the strict rule of their father Oscar. Oscar’s way of counteracting his fear of a society riddled with corruption is simply to hide from it. The family live in an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where the children are home schooled by their mother and they only venture outside a handful of times a year, one year the children didn’t leave the apartment once.
The documentary focuses on the brothers and allows them to voice their opinions about their situation and in one brothers case, his apparent anger at his domineering father. For the most part, Oscar is absent from the film, apparently not feeling comfortable with being interviewed. This leads to Crystal, Oscar’s wife, being the one trying to explain her husbands reasons for locking his family away from the outside world. Crystal’s struggle in trying to explain Oscar’s reasons leaves the audience still in the dark about why this happened, and this is probably because there are no logical reasons for a father to do this in modern day America.
The brothers’ only source of recreation comes in the form of watching movies and re-enacting their favourites. The boys own a collection of over 3000 movies, ranging from Gone with the Wind to Reservoir Dogs. It is clear that movies have played a huge part in the boys lives; these movies are their only real connection to the outside world. Due to this, one would think that watching films like The Dark Knight and Pulp Fiction, would lead to the boys developing a very strange perception of life outside their apartment. While this is evident in parts of the boys personalities, they take inspiration from vigilantes like Batman, giving them the courage to possibly escape from their fathers dominant grasp. What else is noticeable is how the brothers continuously act out scenes from their favourite movies and how this seems to have taught them impressive performance skills, because of this, they are fascinating subjects on screen who feel very at home in front of a camera due to their practice at performing. This is something the documentary has in its favour; it is a pleasure to spend time watching such engaging, articulate and likeable brothers.
Moselle is very un-flashy in her style of filmmaking, and while usually this would be a negative it somehow manages to work very well here. The simple style of the filmmaking allows you to connect on a much more intimate level with the family. This leads to subtly moving moments when the boys are slowly integrated into society. However, there are parts of the story that are not probed into as deeply as you would like, there are a few hints to abuse from Oscar to his wife and possibly his children but these issues are never followed up on.
Overall, The Wolfpack is a solidly made documentary that allows a glimpse into a tragic, bizarre and compelling way of bringing up a family in western society.
The film plus a bundle of behind-the-scenes content – including interviews, making-of documentaries, stills, and more – are available on We Are Colony now.