You might have heard of The Wolfpack. It’s the bizarre, sometimes devastating, often heart-warming story of the Angulo children: six brothers (and one mainly off-screen sister) whose cultish and frankly cruel father kept them inside a Manhattan apartment for most of their lives. We’re forced to piece together the backstory gradually as we catch unilluminating glimpses of the father and strangely enigmatic interviews with the mother – who home-schools her children and lives off the income the state grant her for it. By the end, we’re still not entirely sure of the reasons and exact circumstances of the boys’ strange existence.
But really that’s just one dark aspect of Crystal Moselle’s engrossing documentary. Yes, it’s an exploration of a problematic social experiment in parenting that has left the Angulo brothers eccentric and in some ways damaged. But it’s also a testament to the strength of brotherhood, the resilience of creativity and, of course, the power of cinema. The brothers (some young men, some still in their early teens) are fully fledged film-obsessives who spend their time re-enacting their favourite movies together – they’re particularly keen on Reservoir Dogs, unsurprising given that they look similar and love working a black suit and sunglasses ensemble.
From recreating a remarkably accurate Batman costume out of yoga mats and cereal boxes, to shooting their own original film in the confines of the apartment, they live and breathe movies. More than that, they see the outside world through a movie lens; their first visit to a sandy beach is understood as akin to Lawrence of Arabia and tall trees are like the fantasy forests of The Lord of the Rings. They even speak in a kind of mobster-meets-hardboiled-detective cinema-patois that could only come from limited time in the real world and plenty of hours spent staring at celluloid.
Although by the last scenes of the film the Angulo boys are on the road to a kind of strange normality – and the documentary’s success has afforded them opportunities they surely could never have dreamt of – watching The Wolfpack is frequently moving and deeply uncomfortable. Still, the kindness, passion and innocence of the brothers is uplifting and, at times, even funny. Imagine our joy, then, when Wonderland got the opportunity to ask Govinda Angulo (one of the oldest of the clan) about his all-time favourite films: The Wolfpack is a movie that blurs the lines between reality and the movies, so what could be more in the weird meta-cinematic spirit of the whole thing than this?