Raised By, by Rudie Obias
There are a lot of documentaries out there that are unable to explore one aspect of its subject, let alone go in-depth with its own narrative and point-of-view. But there’s something special when you come across a film that takes a look at a way of life that is foreign, yet somewhat familiar to your own. Director Crystal Moselle manages to take you inside the joy and pain of movie fandom, obsession, and isolation in her debut film The Wolfpack.
The Wolfpack follows the Angulos family, a large family unit living in a housing project on the Lower East Side of New York City’s Manhattan Island. The documentary focuses on the family’s six brothers; Bhagavan, the oldest brother; twins Govinda and Narayana; Mukunda, the leader of the pack; Krisna; and Jagadesh. All six brothers are teenagers and have an obsession with movies, especially films from Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan. While nothing seems unusual about teenage boys in love with Pulp Fiction or The Dark Knight, the Angulos Boys re-enact almost every movie they watch.
They spend countless hours watching movies, transcribing every line of dialogue in their own screenplays, making costumes, and acting in front of cameras to re-create, not just their favorite scene, but the entire movie. There’s something very charming about their home productions when you realize that the main reason why they’re so obsessive and exacting with movies is that they are prisoners in their own home.
The boys’ father Oscar, a Hare Krishna from immigrant from Peru, keeps his family isolated inside of their apartment because he wants to keep them away from the outside world, which he feels is just too dangerous for his family. Their mother Susanne, a Midwestern woman who met Oscar while on the trail to Machu Picchu, homeschools their boys and is also under the watchful thumb of her husband. We soon come to understand that she’s a willing participant in keeping her family “safe” from the outside world.
When the boys become teenagers, they want to explore what’s outside of their apartment, but are unable to leave. Some want to stay, while others want to see New York City. It’s interesting to see when the movie does turn how the boys interact with the outside world. We know they love movies, but they’ve never seen one in a movie theater. Since the boys have spent a majority of their lives in isolation, they’re not as well adjusted as other teenagers that have access to the world around them. Moreover, seeing how people react to the Angulos boys is almost a strange comment on how we view the unusual and out-of-the-ordinary.
The Wolfpack is a very haunting and soul-crushing movie that’s very well made but will leave you emotionally drained when it’s finished. It’s exhausting to see how trapped these boys are, both physically and mentally, as they re-enact scenes from their favorite movies. It’s almost amazing the type of access Moselle had with the family. Moselle also does a fine job creating a sense of claustrophobia in the viewer that works well in re-creating the boys’ fragile state of mind. It’s a tough situation to be a documentary filmmaker observing and filming child abuse, but Moselle walks a fine line between art and interfering with her subjects. But much like a real pack of wolves, the Angulos Boys stick together through thick and thin.