Seven siblings were locked in a four-bedroom apartment in New York City’s Lower East Side by their paranoid and alcoholic father, rarely allowed to leave. The siblings lived this life of isolation for 23 years and received their only taste of the “real world” through the over 5,000 movies they watched.
The Daily Mail reports that the Angelo family lived in a small four-bedroom apartment in NYC’s Lower East Side. The patriarch of the family, Oscar, was a Peruvian immigrant who suffers from alcoholism and severe paranoia. Oscar believed that his seven children would be contaminated if they were to be allowed into NYC society. Therefore, Oscar locked the siblings into the apartment, only allowing them to leave a few times each year.
The siblings included six brothers, Bhagavan, 23, twins Govinda and Narayana, 22, Mukunda, 20, Krisna, 18, Jagadesh, 17. The brothers also had one sister, Visnu, the oldest of the siblings, who struggles with a mental handicap. All seven siblings were homeschooled by their mother, Susanne. The siblings had little interaction with the outside world, but instead got a taste of life on the outside through a collection of over 5,000 movies.
The brothers spent their time in their apartment making elaborate costumes out of spare items in the home. They would then reenact their favorite movies in full costume. Not only did the brothers put on productions of the movies, they would also capture them on home video. The lives of the Angelo brothers was fueled by their imaginations.
On one of the rare outings the six brothers took into the city, they typically were only allowed to leave eight or nine times the entire year, a film director named Crystal Moselle saw the boys and was immediately intrigued. Moselle said the boys looked like a “wolfpack” walking right down the middle of the NYC streets. The Daily Mail notes that Moselle “described first seeing them, on First Avenue, when they were all walking in a ‘pack’, wearing sunglasses and with their long hair blowing. Their look had been inspired by ‘Reservoir Dogs.'”
“It almost felt as if I had discovered a long lost tribe, except it was not from the edges of the world but from the streets of Manhattan.”
Moselle befriended the boys on the street and was eventually invited, reluctantly and after a lot of effort, into the Angelo’s secluded world. In true filmmaker fashion, she brought along her camera. What she found was an intriguing story about the human spirit and how it deals with confinement. She turned the footage into a documentary called The Wolfpack that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.
One HitFix reviewer says the documentary is “the kind of story that would lend itself to sensationalism and exploitation, but ends up with a core of human emotion that largely (but not entirely) supersedes the shock of its premise.” The idea of seven siblings being confined to a small space with nothing more than their imaginations and a love for movies is certainly shocking for most. Moselle says that the brothers of the wolfpack had extraordinary imaginations that were fed by “meticulously re-enacting favorite movies – works by Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorcese among them.” However, it is noted that the film does not focus entirely on their isolation, but also the wonderment the boys experience as they take their few outings into the world.