Documentary “The Wolfpack” Shows Filmmaking As A Sign Of Hope

By Scott Kurland
 Film: The Wolfpack
Starring: Mukunda Angulo, Narayana Angulo, Govinda Angulo, Bhagavan Angulo, Jagadisa Angulo, and Krsna Angulo
Rated R
Director: Crystal Moselle

I’ve seen a lot of documentaries. Some are about families, others about cults, and a lot about filmmakers. However, I never saw one about all three together in one film, until this year. Director Crystal Moselle made headlines at this year’s Sundance film festival with her documentary, “The Wolfpack”. From there the film gained momentum and lots of publicity. However, no one knew what it was about. All anyone knew of the film was it focused on shut-ins living in a lower east side apartment building. Also, people knew that these particular shut-ins enjoyed re-enacting famous films. This week’s film is in fact “The Wolfpack”, one of the most haunting documentaries I’ve ever seen. Let’s take a look shall we?

“The Wolfpack” documents the true tale of the Angulo brothers and how their father hid them away from the world. In a tiny apartment on the lower east side of Manhattan, the brothers, their mother, and sister live in fear of their own father, Oscar Angulo. Oscar is a man who believes in the teachings of Hare Krishna. He also believes his children are only safe under his rule. Hidden away from society, the boys find solace in film. They watch films, remake films, and use cinema as a coping tool. All of the brothers; Mukunda, Narayana, Govinda, Bhagvan, and Jagadisa defy their father by venturing out into the real world for the first time. Their journey involves exploring jobs, living life, and, for once, seeing a movie in an actual theater.

Crystal Moselle has made one of the most compelling dramas I’ve ever seen. As I watched “The Wolfpack” I was saddened when I realized the darker details of the Angulo family. There’s no fiction. It’s all real, and that is why this film scared me. Moselle examines the lives of these brothers who are, more or less, stuck in a cult. This cult masks itself as a family, but it has all the elements of a typical leader driven organization. There is hope for the bothers however as each boy stands up for what they believe is right even if that means they have to disown their father in the process. It takes a good filmmaker to make a movie of this stature. Moselle digs deep with the footage she captures and holds nothing back. At times I found myself shaken to my core, at other moments I found it to be a very sincere piece.

What I really liked about this film was the exploration of themes. Moselle explores hope, family, and protection. There’s also the connection of all these themes and how they apply to movies. Re-enacting movies like “The Dark Knight” and “Reservoir Dogs” allows the boys to feel free,  even though they’re trapped. Surprisingly, the costumes and props they make are incredibly realistic, at least until they show you its cardboard. I truly believed that they had made a real life Bat suit, but then Mukunda revealed it was yoga mats tape, and cardboard...I know, tragic right? The Angulo brothers are incredibly complex and layered subject matter that you root for. Although you feel sorry for their situation, you never pity them as individuals. Even so, the gravity of their predicament never quite leaves your mind.

At times “The Wolfpack” is uplifting but, for the most part, it is a heartbreaking exploration about the effects of solitude. Crystal Mostlle, really digs deep and holds nothing back. What I thought was going to be a film about cinephiles and how they remake films on home video, slowly morphed into something bigger than itself. I truly loved this film. I loved it when it made me laugh with the re-enacted footage. And I loved it more when it broke my heart learning of this families’ trapped lifestyle. 

“The Wolfpack” is playing in Boston, but you can rent it On-Demand and Itunes. I implore you all to search for this film. This is a hopeful gem, full of dark undertones. I hope this is remembered come Oscar season. For once I would like to see a documentary win for once that isn’t about war, or embezzlement. Do yourself a favor and see this film. It’s glorious, informative, and one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in ten years. Try and find this film, you can thank me later.

scott kurlandComment