The Wolfpack is a documentary that made its rounds in the film festival circuits earlier this year before its theatrical release about two weeks ago. Directed by Crystal Moselle, it shows the lives of the Angulo brothers, who grow up all but trapped in their family’s tiny apartment in New York City’s Lower East Side. Their father is the only person with a key to the apartment, and so the boys’ childhoods consist of being homeschooled and watching movies.
These boys have an absolutely unrepressable creative energy, and they channel it into recreating scenes from their favorite movies. We see them painstakingly transcribing scripts from movies, in a way that anyone growing up in the 90s will recognize – don’t you remember trying to record songs off the radio or movies on VHS? Some of their favorite movies to re-enact are Reservoir Dogs, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Pulp Fiction, not much different from any other teenage boy.
What drives the movie is the spirit of the brothers, their resilience and creative energy. I think that Crystal Moselle’s directorial debut left much to be desired. The documentary was at times meandering and directionless, things aren’t clear, and Moselle interferes and changes the course of the story without so much as an explanation.
Regardless, the documentary is absolutely captivating. It’s not a documentary that will take you into the nitty-gritty and the logistics – how are they affording things? why didn’t anyone report this to child services? etc – that we, as a nosy, prying, and entitled society want to know. I was lucky enough to attend the TriBeca film festival premiere, which was followed with a Q&A with the entire family and crew. I was absolutely horrified at the questions being asked – some people have no sense of boundaries and common sense! These are very real people, and the panel left me feeling very awkward, as if we are treating this family like an exhibit in a zoo. There is a definite sense of voyeurism and crossing boundaries while watching the documentary. I felt uncomfortable and creepy at times.
It has taken me a few months to process the experience, and I think that it was worth it. There are so many important and beautiful moments that you get to see – the boys go to the ocean for the first time, write and create an original play, celebrate Halloween with an indoor bonfire. In the Q&A session, Susanne, the mother, spoke up. She said, to her, this is a movie about absolute beauty and creative freedom – about what happens when you put six boys together with limitless imagination and creative energy. I would have to agree with her – halfway through the documentary, you almost forget the bizarre living situations that are the premise of the documentary. This isn’t a documentary about wolf children and voyeurism, it’s a documentary about the innate need to create that is within all of us.
Recommendation: Definitely Go See