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Inside the world of The Wolfpack

Tuesday 28th July 2015

The Wolfpack explores the strange and isolated upbringing of six brothers, each with a brilliantly creative view of the world they were only allowed to observe from afar.

"Something about them just really intrigued me," director Crystal Moselle says of the Angulo brothers.

Photo: NZIFF

Not many people have literally chased after a story, but that’s exactly what Wolfpack director Crystal Moselle found herself doing.

The first time she encountered the Angulo brothers, they were running together down First Avenue dressed in their eye-catching attire.

“[They] ran past me on the street. They had this long hair, they were all dressed similar and had these sunglasses on, and their hair was down past their waist.

“Something about them just really intrigued me, and I instantly ran after them. It was a wild moment, I don’t know what did it,” Moselle says.

Having streetcasted for film projects before, Moselle has a keen eye for spotting the unique shuffling through busy streets and noticing the difference.

For the filmmaker, the Angulo brothers’ distinct visual aesthetic was just a small part of what made them so interesting. Moselle describes them as having “an openness about them [that] was really special.”

“They asked me what I did for a living and [when] I told them I was a filmmaker they got super excited and said ‘oh we’re interested in getting into the business of filmmaking, so I was happy to have a skill they wanted to learn.”

Bonding over a mutual appreciation of cinema, and forming a friendship with the boys, Moselle knew that they were destined to collaborate on a project together. She just wasn’t sure what it was going to be exactly.

“I started filming them more and they asked if I wanted to come over to their house, and I did, and slowly uncovered this amazing story.”

It was when she started filming the boys in their home that she learnt more about the way they lived, the restrictions enforced on them, and the way they had grown up.

“[When] I first met them, I didn’t know what their upbringing was, I knew they were homeschooled at first, but I’d get little clues here and there…

“We got talking more and I found out I was their first friend, then maybe eight months [to] a year in, I realised they were basically being held against their will,” Moselle says.

“Slowly as our friendship grew they revealed their backstory to me. I didn’t know what [it] was as first - it was a slow growth.”

Moselle says it’s always challenging as a filmmaker trying to balance knowing your subjects personally and expressing their story with honesty and integrity.

“I really wanted to tell the story from a non-judgmental point of view.”

You create a relationship with your subject and there’s a trust between you, then you have to present their life from your point of view. It’s challenging for sure.

“You create a relationship with your subject and there’s a trust between you, then you have to present their life from your point of view. It’s challenging for sure.

In The Wolfpack, Moselle explores the brothers’ backstory and their different, creative personalities.

Although the Angulo brothers were captivating on-screen characters, and Moselle knew they had an interesting story to tell, it took time for the director to convince people during funding rounds that she actually had a story worth telling.

However, Moselle says that The Wolfpack really gained direction when the boys opened up their film archive, offering her a treasure trove of vivid material.

“When they gave me all the VHS tapes - the VHS tapes of their childhood - I think that’s when it came together. That’s when I was like, ‘I can now visually tell their backstory.’”

Having first started filming with the brothers five years ago, Moselle has seen them grow up and change, but still maintain their inspiring creative drive.

With one brother a performer working in a theatrical hip hop group, one interested in activism and film, one working on a project for Vice and the other siblings delving into music and filmmaking projects, Moselle is happy they have each continued to follow their passions and creative ventures.

“There’s a real resilience with these kids that I think is inspiring. People can hopefully get inspired themselves by it.”

The Wolfpack is currently screening as part of the NZ International Film Festival.

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