Hot Docs 2015: The Wolfpack
The Angulo brothers love cinema in a way that would make even the staunchest cinephile feel inadequate. Devouring every last morsel in their home collection, which spans 5000+ films, they are constantly striving to feed their seemingly insatiable appetite. The six brothers, assisted occasionally by their lone sister, invest hours writing scripts by hand and making homemade costumes and props in order to re-enact their favourite cinematic moments verbatim. By all accounts their passion, while more than a little obsessive, is nothing that out of the ordinary on the surface.
It is no different than those who routinely discuss film online or attend fan conventions in cosplay. However, when one of the brothers exclaims in The Wolfpack that movies “make me feel like I am living” it is clear that this is no hyperbole.
Trapped like prisoners in their own home, only the patriarch holds a key to the front door, the Angulo clan live the life of a recluse. Raised to fear the outside, the siblings go out between once and nine times a year, if they venture out at all. Homeschooling and films are their only insight into the world beyond their lower eastside Manhattan apartment. One brother recounts a story about the time he “escaped” this way of life. The fact that he wore a Mike Myers mask during his journey, not the most concealing of disguises, only further emphasizes the family’s situation.
Similar to the characters in some of the horror films they watch, the brothers live in fear of a monster. The major difference is that this monster has been with them since birth. Although director Crystal Moselle is only able to capture a few moments with the boys’ father, it is clear that he is the one who has set the group on its unique path. A walking contradiction at times, their father is paranoid that the corruptible nature of modern society will influence his children. The fascinating thing is that he is the one who introduced movies – one of the many art forms of this supposed evil culture – into his family’s life. Proud of his ability to influence those around him, often through fear and abuse, Mr. Angulo is an enigma that neither the film nor the rest of the family can seem to crack.
Rather than exploiting the palatable tension between the brothers and their father, Moselle’s camera often lets those sections breath. She does not attempt to offer solutions to the brother’s predicament, but merely observes events as they play out. The Wolfpack uses the siblings’ cinematic obsession to convey the strength and hope that film can infuse into audiences. One of the most remarkable moments in the film arrives when the brothers, while on a rare day long outing, experience a movie in a theatre for the very first time. It is a scene that finds the boys fears and paranoia subdued, though only for a few short hour, by the power of cinema.
Treating her subjects with the utmost care and respect, Crystal Moselle’s The Wolfpack is both an fascinating exploration of a dysfunctional family and a love letter to the magic of cinema. While the audience is left to wonder about where the Angulo family will go from here? It is clear that their love of film will be with them every step of the way.
Friday, April 24, 6:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sunday, April 26, 4:00 PM Scotiabank Theatre
Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.