The documentary “The Wolfpack” tells a bizarre, almost unbelievable story about six brothers and the isolated life they led in New York City.
The Angulo brothers spent most of their childhood and youth held intentionally away from society. Their father, Oscar, a native of Peru who’d once aspired to be a musician, viewed the outside world as a bad place that would harm his children.
Oscar held the only key to the public housing apartment where his family lived. He largely kept as captives his sons, a mentally handicapped daughter and his wife, a woman from the Midwest he’d met in Peru.
One of the Angulo brothers, Mukunda, eventually escaped. Wearing a mask modeled after Michael Myers, the monster in the “Halloween” movies, Mukunda took a two-block tour of the neighborhood before police took him to hospital for a mental evaluation.
“The Wolfpack” is a documentary made possible by home video footage the brothers and their family shot over of a period of years. Beyond footage that could be just about any family’s home movies, the Angulo brothers filmed their re-creations of scenes from movies. They learned the dialogue and made their own props and costumes.
“It makes me feel like I’m living,” one brother explains to documentary filmmaker Crystal Moselle.
Movies and music, both reflections of the real world, were among the things Oscar Angulo did allow in the apartment. The family’s DVD and VHS collection, one brother estimates, contains 5,000 titles.
A chance meeting between Moselle and the brothers led to the production of this hauntingly strange documentary. In her director’s statement, Moselle says she met the boys the first week they went outside.
“It almost felt as if I had discovered a long lost tribe, except it was not from the edges of the world but from the streets of Manhattan,” Moselle says. “I have been by their side as they experienced the outside world for the first time …”
“The Wolfpack” present a remarkably direct story of a long, often painful but not altogether joyless imprisonment, gradually broken by Mukunda and his brothers.
The film also lets Mukunda, his brothers, their mother, Susanne, and father tell their sides of the story. From Oscar Angulo’s view, the apartment wasn’t a prison -- instead, prison was the world with its societal pressures and religions.
After the brothers gingerly enter the world outside, one of them says of his father, “Everything I see in him feels wrong to me.”
Harrowing and liberating, the brothers’ journey beyond their dimly lit apartment forms a documentary unlike any other.