US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Isolated brothers rely on movies and each other in ‘The Wolfpack'

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The Wolfpack
Directed by Crystal Moselle (Kotva Films, 2015)
After watching Star Wars as kids, no wrapping paper roll in my house was safe; my brothers and I stole them for light saber battles. The Wolfpack opens with a similar scene of kids recreating movies, but only slowly does this documentary reveal the strange necessity of their movie play. 
 
The six Angulo brothers live with their parents and younger sister in a Lower Manhattan apartment where their controlling father, Oscar, keeps the family locked away. The children go outside only a few times a year. Slivers of the world come to them via the thousands of movies Oscar brings home, which the children study meticulously. Reenacting movies, they go well beyond cardboard light sabers, building elaborate Batman suits from yoga mats and cereal boxes.
 
The Dark Knight inspires 15-year-old Mukunda to go against his father’s orders and venture outside by himself for the first time in January 2010. Soon after, director Crystal Moselle encountered all six boys running down a city street. Bonding over a shared love of movies, she follows them as they escape their father’s control and explore the world, which they relate to through movie "scenes": A small New York City park, which in the middle of winter features only some muddy grass and bare trees, is the Lord of the Rings’ colossal Fangorn Forest. A crowded Coney Island beach pocked with cigarette butts and food wrappers is the sands of Lawrence of Arabia.
 
Discussing what they consider the best movies made, one of the brothers mentions Gone with the Wind. For me, it’s a movie fraught with racism and historical revisionism. The Angulo brothers see something more straightforward—a singular heroine overcoming hardship. That theme seems to run through all the movies they admire, and it sustains them as they transition from captivity to lives of their own.
 
This review appeared in the October 2015 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 80, No. 10, page 41).
Published: 
Monday, October 5, 2015