‘The Wolfpack’ Family and Their Dark Secret: Q&A With Director Crystal Moselle

Sundance Film Festival The Wolfpack

Five years ago, Crystal Moselle was walking down First Avenue in New York when six boys ran past her. Struck by their intriguing appearance, she chased them down the street, and introduced herself to what turned out to be the Angulo brothers, now ranging in age from 16 to 23. Moselle and the brothers bonded over their love of cinema, and she soon learned about their cache of home movies, in which they re-enact their favorite films with sets, props and costumes made from whatever was lying around — it turns out yoga mats make an effective Batman suit.

What she didn’t know when she initially decided to make a documentary about the sensitive and intelligent young men was their dark secret. “At first, I thought it would be this sweet little film about these kids making movies and figuring out how to get into the movie business,” Moselle says. That changed when she learned the brothers had lived virtually their entire lives locked inside a four-bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side at the insistence of their paranoid father, who also kept their mother confined.

Now, the whole story is documented in Moselle’s surprising documentary “The Wolfpack,” which won the docu grand jury prize when it premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The Magnolia release opens Friday and expands beyond New York on June 19.

When did you come to learn about the Angulos’ history?
I didn’t know their background for the first year. They started revealing little stories to me, and then Mukunda told me he had escaped the house once in a Michael Myers mask. That made me ask, “Why would you have to do that?” It made me realize the story was more complex than I thought.

Was it difficult to get the tone right, given the potentially disturbing subject?
At a certain point I said, “I’m going to tell this until the story feels inspiring.” But I think they have such a beautiful way of looking at life — (one) that I’d never seen before — and that’s what carried them through.

What was the family’s reaction to seeing the movie the first time?
It was extremely emotional, but they felt like it was an honest portrayal of their family. Even the father (to whom the boys no longer speak) said it was educational for him to see what his kids were thinking.

Was it a challenge to earn their trust?
They were very open to me because we have so many similar interests. I would say the biggest challenge was realizing the story was something completely different, and bringing that story out in the edit room. We had, like, 500 hours of footage.

Was there anything you couldn’t include in the final cut?
There was a great scene of them celebrating Quentin Tarantino’s birthday. They celebrate most of their idols’ birthdays because they didn’t celebrate Christmas or anything, so birthdays are a big deal.

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  1. Myrtle says:

    Crystal Moselle was the person send to that family to help them deal and somehow overcome many negative feelings. Any other way and the family would have been exploited and hurt even more. Trust is earned, Crystal was trusted. How on earth would the boys let any one working for the government come near their deepest thoughts and emotions? The system was the exact thing they were warned about growing up.
    I am a Christian, and was obviously very glad that the dad realized that because of Jesus Christ all our sins are forgiven. Hope the boys will some day forgive their dad so that they can become truly free.
    Thank you Angulo family for sharing your story. Might I say you all have very good style. Maybe one day one of you will make a Oscar winning movie about….WHAT EVER!
    I am so glad for you all that you were granted a wonderful mother. I feel especially sorry for her.
    My favorite part of the documentary? Were she hears her mothers voice for the first time in so many years.

  2. julius says:

    Crystal was able to tell a story by showing all of the positive observations of this family without being mean like the documentarian who exploited/mocked/judged his subjects in Grey Gardens. She was able to see this family is very loving despite their hardships and did not try to play armchair psychoanalyst or sensationalize everything. I am so impressed with her – no ego, tasteful, respectful, straightforward and such healthy objectivity . In a time where the exploitation of people’s vulnerabilities is entertainment ( think The Office or any reality tv show that tries to make fighting dramas out of every little thing or wanting to pry open people’s most personal pain for creepy sensational entertainment ) this is such a welcomed and needed example I hope people will be influenced by.

  3. kate says:

    I am quite disgusted with the film producer Crystal Moselle. Why did she not notify child protection? Why did she allow this abuse to continue of both the children and the mother? To get a good film?! Its appalling and any promotion of this film “doco” should address these issues. You should feel ashamed Crysal Moselle!

  4. diazaraceli says:

    How did a Mr. Oscar Angulo, a Peruvian Indian hear about Hare Krishna, a weird, American hippie religion based on ancient Hindu scriptures? Most Peruvians are Catholic! The only one that had visited Tibet was the mom, Susanne.

    Also, they grew speaking English, their mother’s language!

    Furthermore, social welfare programs do not exist in Peru. The only one that would know about these programs would be the mother Susanne.

    Finally, Susanne, the mother is older, she should have known better.

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