The Wolfpack, a true story about six brothers kept locked up for most of their lives in a Lower East Side housing project, won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Now, it’s slated to have its New York debut at the Tribeca Film Festival this April.
Directed by East Village resident Crystal Moselle, who met the Angulo brothers walking down First Avenue in 2010, The Wolfpack was quickly acquired by Magnolia Films and is slated to be distributed early this summer. The film, which is Moselle’s first full-length feature, has been garnering press coverage, both local and international, at a frenetic pace.
Moselle says she noticed the brothers because they all had waist-long black hair and were wearing sunglasses inspired by the Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs. She ran after them to learn more about the boys and became instantly obsessed.
“‘I stalked these kids on the street one day and here I am,'” Moselle told the Sundance audience after collecting her award.
The siblings’ father, Oscar Angulo, a Peruvian immigrant and a Hare Krishna devotee, was fearful of the outside world and the danger of “contamination” that his family would face. He had the only key and kept the apartment door locked, according to Moselle. “Everything was pretty much kept within the household,” she said.
The kids were allowed an average of six outings a year and very little public interaction. One year, they did not leave the apartment even once. The kids (now 16 to 23 years old) were homeschooled by their mother (who receives compensation for doing so) and provides the only family income. Their father doesn’t work—as a form of political protest.
When not “in school” the boys—Bhagavan, Govinda, Narayana, Mukunda, Krisna and Jagadesh—were allowed to watch movies nonstop, on cheap DVDs or library rentals. In so doing, they learned about the outside world through the thousands of films they viewed growing up. “Their only window to the world was movies,” Moselle said in a Sundance video about her film.
The film’s press notes state that the brothers spent their childhood re-enacting their favorite movies using elaborate homemade props and costumes. With no friends and living on welfare, they fed their curiosity, creativity and imagination with film, which allows them to escape from their feelings of isolation and loneliness. But everything changes when one of the brothers escapes, and the power dynamics in the house are transformed.
There are hints of abuse from the father, but these dark undertones are not explored in depth. “The thing is, these brothers are some of the most gentle, insightful, curious people I’ve ever met. Something was clearly done right,” Moselle says in an interview with The New York Times.
The Angulo brothers and their mother all traveled to Sundance for the screening last month, but they didn’t sit down for any interviews.
Reviews of the film have been mixed. There has been criticism of the somewhat superficial treatment of the father’s role. One thing is for sure: This story will keep audiences engaged and wondering about the Angulo family for years to come.
The Tribeca Film Festival runs April 15-26, 2015. Venues and showtimes vary. For tickets go here.