The Wolfpack

June 23, 2015 at 3:31 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ½

While probably not for everyone, I found this documentary to be brilliantly unnerving in all the right ways. For about 5 years (presumably from 2010 until 2015), documentary filmmaker Crystal Moselle was given astonishing access into the lives of a very strange New York family. The mother, who grew up in the Midwest, met her South American husband while hiking the Inca Trail as a young woman. They moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan with plans of saving money and moving to Scandinavia some day. Instead, they got suck and ended up raising seven children in their small apartment. And I do mean literally raising them IN the apartment, as the kids grew up effectively never leaving home. They were home schooled and stepped foot outside of the apartment just a a few times a year. How does a child survive that? Well, it would appear in this case, they do it remarkably well with humor, sensitivity and a good deal of creativity. Moselle (who has made just one other film 10 years ago) focuses almost entirely on the 6 brothers, all of whom have Hindu names. The fourth brother, Mukunda, is the primary voice of the film. A couple of the other brothers do speak some, particularly as they get older, but it is Mukunda we get to know best. Fortunately, he is insightful and emotionally honest enough that he is able to carry the film. My one frustration, and it is a big one, is what remains unexplored. So many questions are unanswered: how did Moselle gain access to the family to begin with and how did she build their trust? The one sister is virtually invisible in the film and appears to be perhaps mentally disabled. Why is she so completely ignored? And, perhaps most significantly, it feels like there are secrets in the house that are never spoken on camera. One of the boys very elliptically references possible physical abuse and, at one point, one boy says that, “there are just some things that can never be forgiven.” Moselle doesn’t push. In fact, she never pushes. This is not a criticism. Somehow, Moselle was able to gain access to this remarkable family and I am hard pressed to complain about her methods but I do suspect that access was earned through a fair amount of collusion that ultimately obscured part of the story being told. In the end, this documentary appears to have helped several of the boys leave home and get established and Mukunda has recently worked as a production assistant on a short film. That matters for something. And I, for one, am grateful to have discovered these boys at all, who seem to me a testament to the human ability to thrive. In the film’s final moments, we watch the making of a film Mukunda wrote. It’s the story of a boy who watches through a window as emotions float by. His family members, all in elaborate homemade costumes, play the emotions. This simple story of a boy looking through the window (like a boy watch the movie screen), understanding himself through others, had such a depth of honesty; it was a stunning piece of art. It captured everything that is best and most powerful about film.

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