Based on a true story and acclaimed at Sundance, Crystal Moselle’s poignant chronicle of children isolated from the outside world proves, once again, that fact can be stranger than fiction. Five years ago, aspiring filmmaker Ms. Moselle spotted the six Angulo brothers – then ages 11 to 18 – wandering in the streets of New York’s East Village. Befriending the boys over the next few months, she discovered their bizarre secret. Read on…
They spent most of their time indoors, confined in a four-bedroom, 16th floor apartment in a Lower East Side public housing project by their fearful father, Oscar, who forbade them to venture out.
As Oscar explains: “I didn’t want them to have the social pressure and be contaminated by drugs or religion or philosophy – but to learn who they are.”
Home-schooled by their mother, Susanne, they lived vicariously through a collection of 5,000 movies. “If I didn’t have movies, life would be pretty boring…,” one says. His brother adds, “It makes me feel like I’m living, sort of, because it’s kind of magical.”
Back in the late 1980s, Oscar Angulo, a Peruvian musician, met Midwestern Susanne Reisenbichler on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. Soon after, they married and moved to West Virginia, then California, then New York City, where their developmentally disabled daughter and six sons were born.
They gave their sons Sanskrit names – Bhagavan, Govinda, Narayana, Makunda, Krsna and Jagadisa – and, as Hare Krishna followers, they focused on achieving an ultimate personal reality.
In 2010, adventurous 15 year-old Makunda was the first to escape, wearing a homemade “Halloween”-inspired Michael Myers mask. Alarmed, neighborhood shopkeepers summoned police who took him to Bellevue Hospital, thinking he was deranged.
While child welfare advocates deemed confinement “a bizarre parenting choice,” paranoid Oscar and Susanne broke no laws. Their children were obviously educated and healthy. During filming, the siblings and their mother became more self-aware and perceptive, learning how to interact with others.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Wolfpack” is a strange 7, a fascinating documentary.