Directed by Crystal Moselle. Starring Bhagavan Angulo, Govinda Angulo, Jagadisa Angulo, Krsna Angulo, Mukunda Angulo, Narayana Angulo
THE PLOT: Filmmaker Crystal Moselle tells the story of the Angulo family, six brothers and one sister kept away from the outside world in a Manhattan apartment. Moselle interviews the boys of the family about their lives, and their attempts to get to know the world beyond their windows through movies and eventually, escape.
THE VERDICT: There is little doubt that the story of seven siblings kept under lock and key in a Manhattan apartment for 14 years is a gripping one; these children were home schooled for fear that the outside world would contaminate them and were only allowed out into the streets a handful of times a year. The trouble is that filmmaker Crystal Moselle seems to have got too close to the family in her five years of filming them, and there are many unanswered questions by the end of the film.
Of the seven siblings, we mostly spend time with the boys; Bhagavan, twins Govinda and Narayana, Mukunda, Krisna, and Jagadesh. Their sister Visnu and their father rarely appear on camera. The story that emerges is one of a group of kids trying to find a way to live in their small apartment under a controlling influence and who found an escape and a learning through movies, so began to recreate them in painstaking detail for their own entertainment. These recreations are interesting, as it shows the glee these kids take in such recreations, but it also shows how little they have learned about the world around them.
All of the brothers are bright and engaging, and tell their story through talking heads and interviews. It seems that they are aware that their family situation is more than a little unusual and, although they say they understand the motivations of their over protective father, they often rail against him. This leaves them in an odd halfway spot then; they no longer want to be confined, but they refuse to open up to therapists assigned to them and on a rare trip to the cinema, they become convinced that someone is following them – their father’s paranoia coming out in them.
Director Crystal Moselle spent years with this family, recording them and interviewing them about their lives – she encountered them on one of their rare trips outside the apartment. The trouble is that the subject of the documentary seems more fascinating than the product itself. It is often hard to differentiate between the brothers as they all wear their hair long and look strikingly similar, and although there are moments of greatness – such as home movie footage of kids on Halloween, filmed from above, being juxtaposed with the brothers dressing up in elaborate costumes for their own celebration – it seems that the brothers are guarded. This means that Moselle seems limited in the story she can tell here, as the family will only open up so far. As well as this, it doesn’t seem that there are any answers as to why this family was confined for so long – the father just seems to have a disdain for the world and, as one of the boys says, rebels against the government by not working – and if there are answers, they are not present in this film.
In all, THE WOLFPACK is the story of seven smart and engaging kids whose childhood was about confinement and control. Although they seem to trust director Moselle, it is fairly clear that they never truly open up on camera so while it is fascinating to spend time in their world and observe their relationships, the final film is nowhere near as strong as it could be, and leaves far too many unanswered questions.
RATING: 3.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Wolfpack
Review by Brogen Hayes
  • filmbuff2011

    It’s unlikely that there’ll be another documentary this year quite like The Wolfpack. Truth is certainly stranger than fiction – and this is a film that melds both while being truthful to its intentions. It tells the story of the Angulo Family who live in an apartment in the Lower East Side of New York. It’s not exactly Park Avenue and there are drug deals and murders in the area. The South American father of the family wishes to shield his 7 children, 6 boys and 1 girl, from the horrors of the outside world. The American mother goes along with this, homeschooling their children. The father rarely lets the six boys out of the apartment – just a few times a year and some years not at all. Their image of the world comes from the movies they love so much. They lovingly – and accurately – recreate scenes from their favourite films like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and the Christopher Nolan Batman films. Their entire world is wrapped up inside that apartment – a cocoon from the realities of everyday life and the people in it. But as the boys grow older, one of them becomes more rebellious and starts to venture out… dressed as Michael Myers. The brothers make their first tentative steps into this brave new world… Crystal Moiselle’s absorbing documentary focuses mostly on the six brothers. There’s an observational quality at first, just hanging out with them and getting to know them, watching them make eerily accurate props and costumes from the movies and celebrating Halloween. Moiselle smartly delays introducing the parents until later in the film, trying to connect the dots in their reasoning. The real problem is the father – and he’s a sketchy character at best. He doesn’t come across as a monster, but his vague motives may seem hard to understand to a Northern Hemisphere audience. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing – there are South American tribes who live isolated and untouched in the Rainforest and have no knowledge of the outside world. Given their childhood was essentially spent in one apartment, it’s remarkable how well-adjusted the brothers seem – something they give credit to their mother for. It’s a joy to see them experience the things we take for granted for the first time – going to a cinema, taking a train ride, even finding out what Google is. They’re quite cine-literate too – they also love Citizen Kane, Gone With The Wind and Blue Velvet. Film buffs will no doubt find enjoy the film references. However, there’s a deeper story at work here about isolation, social disconnection, the power of imagination and the raising of children that would appeal to anyone with a heartbeat. Essential viewing. ****