Overview: In this documentary feature, six brothers and one sister are forced to live their entire lives in a single, shared apartment, with movies provided as the only gateway beyond the walls of their confinement. Magnolia Pictures; 2015; Not Rated; 89 Minutes.
Bang, Bang: The patriarch, Oscar Angulo, admiring the lifestyle of Vishnu, insisted on many children. His wife extended his bloodline onwards through six sons and one daughter. Patriarch Angulo forbade his children to step outside of their metropolitan den, but provided movies for their entertainment. Throughout childhood, the Angulo brothers engrossed themselves in movies. They painstakingly recorded each line, committed entire scripts to memory, constructed their own props and costumes, and reenacted entire scenes and sequences. Your movie buff status just got bumped down to novice compared to this pack. It’s not obsessive. It’s their life. The documentary, directed by Crystal Moselle, introduces many characters, often indistinguishable from one another, their faces half-covered by Ray Ban knockoff sunglasses. In The Wolfpack, Moselle had the opportunity to befriend the Angulo brothers. However, the audience is largely left behind, our heads spinning, trying to keep up with who is who among the film’s protagonist brothers, Bhagavan, Govinda, Jagadisa, Krsna, Mukunda, and Narayana.
Puphood: As children, the Angulo brothers were not camera shy. Their familiarity with being in front of the lens may explain their relative ease in recounting stories and acting in an unabashed manner. Through Moselle’s compilation of video recordings, we are made witness to a sacred and esoteric tribal ceremony taking place in the Angulo’s very own living room. The mix of home videos, filmed re-enactments, and present day, documentary footage feels disorderly, adding confusion upon already-present layers of narrative befuddlement. Oscar Angulo’s role in the family is apparent as the Alpha male. In his paternal instinct, he shields his family from external harm and influence. When the pups can no longer contain the inexorable need to feed their curiosity and are prepared to defend themselves against the Alpha male, an opportunity arises to step beyond the threshold of their home.
The Breakout: During one of Oscar Angulo’s errand runs, the eldest son, Bhagavan, escapes. Concealed with a mask to prevent a confrontation with his father on the streets and to reinforce anonymity in public, Bhagavan walks through multiple Manhattan city blocks. This is only the beginning, as the pack regroup and check out what other sights the city may offer. Sometimes, I had to force myself to refrain from laughing at their innocent and sympathetic naivete. The brothers don’t know, they just don’t know that we don’t wear galoshes to the beach or sunglasses at night, despite Corey Hart’s insistence in his hit 80’s pop tune, or that their Rambo-inspired bad-ass hairstyles have decreased in bad-assery in recent years. But who am I to laugh at their unknowing? The joke is on me, in some ways. Their father’s efforts at control and protection blossomed into a certain blissful fruition and attendant naivete in his sons. The Angulo brothers have no qualms about how they should be. Instead, the Angulo brothers exude a level of confidence only attainable through the sheer absence of social influence.
Overall: It’s an engrossingly bizarre tease, a feral tale set against a concrete landscape. You are bound to have questions before the movie and dozens more after. Moselle, we’re expecting a sequel.