The Wolfpack

Thanks to Sharon for bringing this unique documentary to my attention. Directed by Crystal Moselle, The Wolfpack (2015)shows a family consisting of six brothers, their parents and their sister who live in New York. The parents met when the mother went backpacking in South America. She shared his dislike for materialism and were married.

The sad and curious thing about this family is that the father became a control freak and would lock the wife and children in the apartment. He believed it was for security, but actually I saw it as a form of control. They could only go outside when the father permitted it and he apparently went with them so no one could escape. One year they were allowed out 9 years and another they weren’t taken outside at all.

The film focuses on the older brothers. The mother was certified by the state to homeschool the kids and they all spoke articulately and politely. The father had wanted 10 children as his dream of heading a tribe, but seven was the limit (biologically) for the mother. The father didn’t work; the father explained that he didn’t believe in work. I wondered what he did when he was out of the house for hours and hours. They family lived on welfare. The father dreamt of moving to Scandinavia, where the welfare was even better, but that never materialized.

The compelling thing about the documentary is how creative the boys were. To stave off boredom and keep sane, they watched the 5000+ DVDs that their dad had collected and then they’d copy the scripts and act out the films. They made clever props. It’s a good thing there were so many kids or they wouldn’t have enough actors.

As you’d guess this imprisonment couldn’t last forever. One of the sons did succeed in breaking out of the apartment when dad was out. To hide from him, he wore a mask, but that alarmed a shopkeeper, who called the police. For a time the boy was held in a hospital and an investigation and therapy ensued. However, the family was left to its own isolated lifestyle. Thereafter the boys, who now towered over and outnumbered their father would take to the streets to explore, though they’d go back to the apartment.

While the father didn’t cooperate much, the mother does open up to the camera. Her story’s sad, but hopeful.

As Moselle’s first film made while she was still in film school, The Wolfpack is a raw movie and doesn’t provide all the answers you might seek, but it’s sure to provoke thought and I found the boys fascinating.

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