As children growing up most everyone thinks their parents are too strict. Bedtimes, chores, curfews, getting grounded, etc., these are not enjoyable things as a child. That’s what makes the time we get to go out and have fun that much more enjoyable. It’s like the saying, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. But what if you only got one side of that experience? What if you spent your entire childhood locked in a high-rise NYC building? Sounds like a story for a movie right? Well yes, it actually is.
But not a fictional movie, a documentary about real life. The Wolfpack is the story of a family of 6 boys who all live together with their sister and parents in one New York apartment. Their father is the only one who can come and go as he pleases, the rest of the family is locked inside. They get the occasional trip outdoors, as many as 9 times a year, sometimes as few as once. And on at least one occasion they never left at all. For most of their lives the children’s only connection to the outside world was through cinema. Watching movies, ranking them, and even writing scripts and acting them out themselves.
All children play make believe. That’s one of the best parts about being a child; you can do anything with your imagination. How many children (and even adults) dress up and pretend to be a ninja turtle, Superman, Batman, or one of the X-Men? Listening to and seeing these boys you think you’re actually staring down the barrel of a gun with Jules and Vincent from Pulp Fiction.
We also learn about their family and their life outside of the movies, but still within the confines of the apartment. Their Peruvian father who seems a bit paranoid is the one who controls the keys. He believes he is protecting them from the horrors of the outside world. And to some degree, can we blame him? The world does seem pretty terrible sometimes. And they do have the occasional interaction with the outside world not via the screen. I know I would be scared out of my mind if a SWAT team barged into my home searching for weapons. And if we longed for the outside world, would any of us refuse to go out to public school for the sole reason that it would put our mother out of a job?
The absolute rule of the father starts to eventually crumble as the boys age and they decide to venture out and experience the world for themselves. We get to share in their first experience of Coney Island and feeling the sand and water. And I have never come out of a movie excited about the fact that actors like Christian Bale are going to get some of my money because I saw their movie.
Movies have always been about escapism, for some just to get out of the house, for others it’s about getting away from the world you live in and immersing yourself in a fantastic place.
If you were locked in a space, what movies would you escape to?