High up above the streets of New York, a re-enactment of Reservoir Dogs is underway. In a cramped apartment, six boys with long black hair are dressed like Tarantino’s most iconic characters and going through the motions with homemade props and the exact words of the script pouring from their mouths. This is the Wolfpack, but their story isn’t all about fun and games.
It might be the hook for a lot of film buffs - the fact that these boys have spent years making their own sweded versions of Hollywood classics - but their story is really about isolation, control and the power of imagination. The boys are all brothers in the Angulo family, and for fourteen years they have been locked away with barely any experiences or interaction with the outside world.
Director Crystal Moselle found them on the streets one day, all wearing sunglasses and suits, and got chatting to the odd-looking brothers. She discovered that they had only just recently started defying their tyrannical father and exploring the city that they had been shut away from for so long. The Wolfpack is the documentary that shares their strange, sad story with the world.
“It makes me feel like I'm living”, is how one brother describes his feelings when making the re-enacted films. While all this is fun and funny to watch, The Wolfpack is actually a desperately tragic story. Sweding movies has been a way to keep these boys sane, as their father keeps them under lock and key, sometimes letting them out as much as nine times a year, sometimes not even once.
It’s as much a history of the family as it is about the boys and their love of film. The mother is present throughout, but there is some mystery as to the whereabouts of the father for much of the film. It eventually emerges that there is not much of a mystery here at all, Moselle has just chosen to tell the boys and their mother’s story before letting their father have a say. With old home movie footage of the children being home schooled and writing out the scripts of their favourite films, it’s a disturbing but ultimately hopeful picture of a family surprisingly not completely devastated by the actions of a domineering father figure (who the director lets off too easily).
While the father remains a bit of a sinister mystery, Moselle captures the boys as they venture out into the real world. It’s a surreal voyage of discovery as they try train travel, stepping in the sea for the first time and also their first cinema visit.
The snippets of their sweded movies are brilliant and much needed relief from what could have been a thoroughly depressing look at a family completely cut off from the world. The Wolfpack tells an incredible true story, with an admirable lack of judgement, but it could also have probed much deeper.
THE WOLFPACK / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: CRYSTAL MOSELLE / SCREENPLAY: N/A / STARRING: BHAGAVAN ANGULO, GOVINDA ANGULO, JAGADISA ANGULO, KRSNA ANGULO, MUKUNDA ANGULO, NARAYANA ANGULO, CHLOE PECORINO / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 28TH