With everything New York City has to offer, you would think that someone who spent their entire life there would have at least a working knowledge of the city. There”s simply so much going on that, even at a young age, you would expect they probably picked up at least a small patchwork of experiences.
This isn”t the case with the Angulo siblings. Bhagavan, 23, twins Govinda and Narayana, 22, Mukunda, 20, Krisna, 18, Jagadesh, 17, and sister Visnu have all lived in New York City for their entire lives. Up until recently, they knew nothing about the city they inhabited, including their own block. For 14 years, the siblings lived entirely in their apartment, never stepping foot outside, with only movies to show them what the outside world was like.
The siblings were kept inside by their father, Oscar. Hailing from Peru, Oscar became a Hare Krishna devotee, and seemed to think that the city and its inhabitants would have a corrupting influence on his children. Therefore, he kept them inside for over a decade and homeschooled them.
Naturally, the siblings started to chafe against this. Eventually, one brother escaped, and the rest followed suit. In 2010, the six brothers were chanced upon by filmmaker Crystal Moselle. They were walking in a pack, all wearing sunglasses. The fashion choice was inspired by their favorite movie, Reservoir Dogs.
Moselle remembers the striking encounter vividly. “It almost felt as if I had discovered a long-lost tribe, except that it was not from the edges of the world but from the streets of Manhattan,” she recounts.
Moselle was fascinated by the brothers. As one of the first people they met outside their family, the siblings befriended her. Moselle also slowly befriended their parents, and eventually, she was invited inside their apartment, which had been the siblings” entire world for 14 years. She brought her camera, spending many months with the family and filming their lives. The footage would become a documentary called The Wolfpack. The name was inspired by the brothers” tight-knit relationship.
What Moselle found was a world entirely of the siblings” making. Not allowed outside and with no friends but each other, they spent their time watching thousands of movies. From the movies, she found, they had constructed an approximation of the outside world. They also liked to reenact scenes from their favorite films, complete with handmade props and costumes.
Moselle estimates that the siblings have watched about 5,000 movies during their time in the apartment, and used them as educational tools as much as entertainment. While it”s given them a desire to explore the world and make their own lives, Moselle says there are some drawbacks to learning the ins and outs of the real world through movies.
“The downside to all the movies is that there are certain formulas to them,” she says. “Real life is different. In real life, the girl doesn”t always break your heart. The boys are struggling to understand that.”
It might look as if, given their extremely sheltered upbringing, the kids could have been mistreated. Yet despite their father”s paranoia over the outside world “contaminating” his children, Moselle found that Oscar still managed to be something of a positive influence in his children”s lives. “These brothers are some of the most gentle, insightful, curious people I”ve ever met. Something was clearly done right,” Moselle said.
Moselle mainly spent time with the brothers, as the only daughter, Visnu, has special needs and will likely continue to live under her parents” care. Today, the brothers have taken their first steps into the world, with each one beginning to explore their individual passions and interests, which range from environmentalism to filmmaking and hip-hop. The brothers also traveled with their mother, Suzanne, to the Sundance Film Festival, where The Wolfpack won the prize for U.S. documentary. You can see the trailer for the film below.
(via YouTube/MAX Trailers)