Director Crystal Moselle’s film, “The Wolfpack,” premiered at the 31st Sundance Film Festival and was met with fascination. Not only was it a crowd favorite, but her debut documentary also won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize. Her idea for the film began when she was walking down a street in New York and saw six siblings, 11 to 18-years-old, with black ray-ban sunglasses and waist-long hair. Dressed in black, they made such a striking image that Moselle was compelled to catch up to them; she soon befriended them, becoming the first guest into their home and their lives.
The film is primarily set in the sixteenth story, four room apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where the Angulo family was raised and homeschooled, rarely leaving more than nine times a year – one year in particular, they didn’t leave at all. The children Bhagavan, Govinda, Narayana, Jagadisa (now Eddie), Krsna (now Glenn), Mukunda, and their only sister Visnu were given Sanskrit names and followed rules of behavior to emulate the familial community that their father imagined. One brother comments in the film that the aim was to be “almost like a tribe.”
While their mobility was certainly smothered, their creative minds were boundless, mostly due to their access to films. They learned about the world through film, yes, but they participated in other realities through reenactments of their favorites, taking cereal boxes and yoga mats and creating superhero suits, Halloween costumes, props and sets. For them, movies provided an opening into another world, one where they didn’t feel trapped or out of place. When one brother, Mukunda, dared to disobey their father by deciding to breach the confines of their home, to leave the boundary of what they knew as safety, their lives were forever altered. Be warned that this film is rated R for language and matters of trauma.
For more non-fiction fun, I suggest the impossibly true crime documentary “The Imposter” (2012), the glamorous “Advanced Style” (2014), and the in-depth biographical film “Bettie Page Reveals All” (2012).