The Wolfpack: fascinating family
Movies inform and inspire, encourage and educate. They open doors to worlds of people, places and events. And, for the six Angulo brothers in lower Manhattan, the films they watched became lifelines to the streets they were prohibited from experiencing firsthand.
That’s because the boys’ father kept them, and their sisters, locked inside the family apartment for years except for occasional outings. When one brother dared to walk out the door on his own — and later introduced what he found to his siblings — the boys began to discover what the real world can offer beyond the reel adventures they experienced. And, slowly, they began to consider what life on the outside can be.
On one of their walks, the boys happened to meet Crystal Moselle, a documentary filmmaker who would play a pivotal role in a family drama that must be seen to be believed. Through the trust she establishes with the family, and her ability to use a camera to reveal how people feel, Moselle creates a remarkable film that reminds us how truth can be stranger than fiction. And she helps us rediscover the power of film to connect people to worlds they can only imagine.
Moselle’s moving documentary The Wolfpack — a breakout hit at this year’s TriBeCa film festival — explores the dynamics that prompted these parents to raise their children in an unconventional way as well as the movies that taught the boys how to act in places they could not visit. Without judging the reasons for the parents’ actions — while candidly focusing on the impact of their decisions — Moselle reveals the potential these young men bring to a world they hardly know after years of isolation.
Moselle’s fascination with how boys connect with movies gives the film its unique view. As the brothers discuss details of thousands of movies they have watched, and recite words from the scripts of the many they savor — from Reservoir Dogs to Pulp Fiction — they show how they make their own versions of their favorites using props and costumes they construct from what’s on hand in the apartment. Their productions are not simply parodies of movies they memorize; the boys create word-for-word recreations filled with authentic gestures and imaginative effects. But their movies don’t simply fill the days. Moselle’s camera shows that, without the movies, the brothers would be less prepared to walk on real streets.
If the movies open their eyes, the boys’ relationships with their mother secure their hearts. Moselle explores this woman’s devotion to her children at the same time she follows her husband’s restrictions. Again, without judgment, Moselle helps us see inside a lady who tries to connect her children to the world as she wonders if she can reconnect with her own past and the family she left behind.
As fascinating as the film can be, the most interesting story of The Wolfpack may be the one we don’t see. How did filmmaker Moselle secure the boys’ trust to let her cameras reveal such a personal story? What a documentarian achieves off screen can define what we see on screen. With care and creativity, the director reconfirms how a documentary can capture and advance relationships. And Moselle makes us want to spend much more time with these fascinating brothers.
Film Nutritional Value
* Content: High. As the film recalls the amazing experiences of these remarkable brothers, it celebrates the power of a mother’s love.
* Entertainment: High. Although these brothers were kept behind locked doors for years, their personalities reach through the camera to teach and inspire.
* Message: High. Anyone who spends time with these brothers will be touched by the ways they learned to respect and love the people they care for.
* Relevance: High. Any opportunity to talk with children about how they approach the world around them can be meaningful.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: High. Despite its “R” rating, for language, you and your older children can enjoy sharing this film for its insight and entertainment.
The Wolfpack is rated R for “language.” The film runs 80 minutes.
5 Popcorn Buckets
Let’s Talk Movies:
While Crystal Moselle effectively looks at the lives of brothers with an unconventional home life in “The Wolfpack,” she joins other documentary filmmakers who have focused on the realities of family relationships.
Perhaps the best known exploration of relationships premiered in 1973, years before any “real” housewives broadcast on any screen. The landmark film “An American Family” goes where a documentary had never traveled: inside the tension between members of a household. Under the guidance of producer Craig Gilbert, the film introduces the Louds of Santa Barbara, an affluent family with more than their share of extreme personalities. During the months of filming, relationships end, secrets are revealed and lessons learned, all happening in real time for audiences to absorb. Seen today, the film reminds us how powerful a documentary can be when the people in front of the camera forget its presence, a quality that Moselle accomplishes with “The Wolfpack”.
A few years later, in 1977, the documentary cameras of filmmaker John Korty brought another family to the screen with the Oscar-winning “Who Are the Debolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids”? Yes, this family includes the 14 children that Dorothy and Bob DeBolt adopt over the years. And while that may sound reason enough for a documentary, what makes the family so fascinating are the stories of the children, including several who were orphaned and disabled by war, as well as the challenges the family faces. With narration by Henry Winkler, the movie brings relationships to life with its unflinching examination of what it takes for an American family to survive.
While the DeBolts express their concerns over making ends meet – to feed all those mouths – director Lauren Greenfield studies the extreme lives of people with excessive tastes in “The Queen of Versailles”, a look at how the rich cope with their own everyday challenges. The film, released in 2012, follows Jackie and David Siegels as they build a magnificent new home while coping with the realities of the financial crisis. While the film reveals what money can buy, it reminds us that happiness can carry a high price tag. And even though the grass may look greener on the other side of the fence, the burden of ownership can be intense.
As the Siegels cope with their family challenges, movie viewers can rediscover the beauty of long-term relationships in “How Will We Love,” a tribute by filmmaker Chris Brickler to the lessons of love he learned from his grandparents. As they celebrate more than 60 years of marriage, Brickler discovers layers of wisdom that reach across the definitions of commitment. As the director effectively shares, the puzzle of how relationships work is not instantly discovered or automatically lasting; any relationship that matters requires a consistency of focus and feeding to ensure that everyone feels emotionally nourished. Brickler’s ability to humanize the content makes the film irrisistible.
Award-winning documentarian D. A. Pennebaker brings another type of family to the screen in “Original Cast Album: Company”, a fascinating look at the bonds between cast members and creators of a Broadway musical. As the performers – including Elaine Stritch, Dean Jones and Beth Howland – record the music from the Stephen Sondheim show, “Company,” they acknowledge all the tension, ambition and talent that make up a family of performers bringing a show to the stage. With Stritch, particularly, the camera reveals the fears that even a legend must live with when preserving the magic of live performance. And her fellow cast members, just like a family, support her every note along the way.
Enjoy the week. And the movies that celebrate the relationships we cherish.