One of the things I love and sometimes fear about New York City is its many layers of sub-culture. I am fascinated by worlds that seem to exist simultaneously, yet never intertwine. I also love documentary films. That’s why Magnolia Picture’s, The Wolfpack, has been on my “to watch” list since its release in July 2015.
The film lightly tells the story of the Angulo family, a strong band of brothers, a sister, and a mother and father, who live in exceptionally close proximity to each other in a Lower East Side public housing facility. What is the clincher? That the father rarely lets them leave the apartment. It is cited in the film that they leave maybe nine times per year for short bouts of time; and in one year, they never left the apartment at all.
Most of the siblings seem to be in their mid to late teen years and have the strongest of bonds that one would expect given their unusual upbringing. What does a world of extreme isolation in the confines of one of the most sprawling cities in the world translate to? Extreme creativity. Limited in almost everything, including socialization, as they were home-schooled by their mother, the Angulos live in a fantasy world of super heros and other protagonists, supplied to them by their boundless collection of DVDs. To which, oddly enough, their very strict father allowed them unlimited access. They stage plays and transpose scripts, creating a magical world for themselves when access to the real one is not an option.
What is only lightly touched on from the surface is the true reasons for and day to day stories of their shared experience. What lingers is a sense of the incredible darkness that must lie underneath. This movie is deeply disturbing and makes you wonder how many other children are being overlooked and living in such circumstances. Silver lining is a key theme played out by the director. I found myself moved by the Angulo’s plight and touched by their ability to transfer anger and resentment about their experience into creative channels. This family demonstrates that, in life, resilience is a key success factor.