THE WOLFPACK Review
Director : Crystal Moselle
THE WOLFPACK is an undeniably remarkable story. It’s unique and it’s tragic, yet its six protagonists are so articulate and self-effacing that there’s an incredible amount of joy to be found in this fascinating documentary. In fact, The WOLFPACK should by all means be the best documentary of the year. And although it unfortunately falls short on its promise by not feeling quite rounded enough, it is most certainly one of the most important documentaries of the year for any would-be filmmaker.
THE WOLFPACK tells the story of the Angulo siblings, a ragtag crew of creative spirits that were trapped inside the confines of their Manhattan apartment for almost two decades. This geographic repression lead to a creative bubble that was vented through the consumption of cinema. This inspiration to explore the world through the television resulted in the boys’ ever-growing desire to become a part of the film industry, memorizing lines from their favorite Tarantino films and filming recreations of Wes Anderson pictures, all with hand-crafted props and set-decorations.
Still the wrong Wolfpack
What’s marvelous about THE WOLFPACK is how inspiring it can be for any would-be filmmaker, reminding viewers that there is a world of cinema that is often forgotten: the world of no-budget filmmaking, in which you use your parents’ camcorder to shoot a film that your best friends act in, and that you edit entirely using the rewind function on your VCR. It functions as such a revelatory quality that THE WOLFPACK’s greatest strength lays in its conviction to tell viewers that films can be made for no money, and that believing the opposite only reveals one’s lack of creativity.
Once the brothers’ creative eyes are fully opened, their vision feels unrestrained. As the film culminates with one of the boys directing an arthouse piece on his experience of viewing life through a window – whether this is a literal window or the figurative television screen – we begin to realize the depth of the brothers’ experiences, and how despite the tragedy that’s in the foreground, there is a beautiful sense of hope in the happiness that these siblings find in each other. After the success of THE WOLFPACK at Sundance, Vice allowed for the siblings to further explore their intellect with the creation of their short film, MIRROR HEART, which is already making waves, having been entered into the prestigious 30under30 festival.
What keeps Crystal Moselle’s film from being fantastic is that it simply feels unfinished. THE WOLFPACK covers so much captivating ground (in addition to including some absolutely marvelous footage), featuring interviews that feel as honest and bold as some of Errol Morris’ best work; yet, the audience won’t be able to shake the feeling that the filmmaker is pulling punches and refusing to cut to heart of the matter. We know that there is some trauma present here, but we never get to see it. Despite the fact that another year spent with the Angulo family would have likely helped make for a more rounded documentary, the emotional punch and thematic depth that THE WOLFPACK serves is heavier than most documentaries out today, making it an absolute must-watch for genre fans and fellow filmmakers alike.
Finally, you get this!
Slight criticism should not sway anyone from watching this film. It is a testament to the therapeutic side of cinema and the beauty of brotherhood. It’s an example of finding light in the darkest places, and thanks to its wonderfully humble protagonists, it never feels preachy or pretentious. To anyone who dreams of growing up to make movies, THE WOLFPACK shows what a group of passionate, self-educated filmmakers can accomplish on a shoestring budget within the confines of their own home.