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Finding Salvation in Family and Films: THE WOLFPACK (Hot Docs Review)

Among family profiles in the documentary genre, THE WOLFPACK is surely one of the most bizarre. Locked away in a cramped apartment in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Crystal Moselle finds room to explore the Angulo’s – a clan of seven children – upbringing at the hands of a repressive, merciless father. Despite their confinement, the children somehow find meaning in the far reaches of their bleak reality.

Film, specifically, is their nurturing bondage and also their salvation. In adoration of their favourite American films (THE DARK KNIGHT, RESERVOIR DOGS, and HALLOWEEN just to name a few), the group of children re-enact scenes, going to such great lengths as typing the scripts manually by typewriter…all 118 pages of them.

Working primarily with confessional interviews, Moselle crafts a gripping, claustrophobic narrative that’s one part social experiment and one part human tragedy. These brothers have an undeniable energy and passion, which makes bearing witness to their imprisonment heartbreaking. Given the severity of the Father’s rule, it’d have been enlightening to understand more about him as a subject. From the sparse material, we only discover so much and it begs deeper questions.

There’s a moment in the film when the eldest son says, “There are some things you don’t get over and you don’t forgive.” It’s hard to imagine these children ever could.

Yet they do. Or at least seemingly. Their process of socializing back into the “real world” is both magnificent and inspiring. In that regard, THE WOLFPACK serves as a testament to freedom beyond the most oppressive means. Whether it’s found in the love of your brother or in the escape of cinema.

– Mark Cira

By The Seventh Art

The Seventh Art is a Toronto-based online magazine about cinema founded in 2012, with a focus on in-depth interviews with filmmakers.