Audrey Hepburn once said, "Everything I learned, I learned from movies," but she had nothing on the Angulo brothers of New York. Locked in their cramped apartment on the Lower East Side by their paranoid, apparently abusive father, the six boys grew up learning about the world almost solely through movies recorded from TV broadcasts onto VHS tapes.
Five years ago, shortly after they dared to leave the apartment on their own, first-time filmmaker Crystal Moselle began filming their story. The resulting documentary, The Wolfpack, has taken the boys to the Sundance Film Festival and beyond.
The Globe and Mail spoke recently by phone with Mukunda Angulo, a 20-year-old aspiring filmmaker, and his brother Govinda, 22, who works in TV and film production.
What was the experience like of seeing yourself onscreen?
Govinda: I refuse to watch it.
Govinda: It's kind of the same thing that a lot of actors – they don't want to see themselves in movies. They're self-conscious. And you know, I kind of lived it, so I think I know what happens in the end.
Mukunda: I've seen it four times. I watched it with my eldest brother, Bhagavan, at a private screening with Crystal and our producers. It was very emotional for both of us, as well as empowering and visually stunning.
Empowering? How so?
Mukunda: It's pretty amazing, after watching something like that and living it, and still being able to move forward. That kind of empowers me a little bit.
As you were growing up, films freed you – albeit momentarily – through imagination and play. How do you feel, knowing there will be some people who watch The Wolfpack and be inspired to break free of their own cloistered situation?
Mukunda: The No. 1 one thing I'd hope people would take from the movie is to not let your fear conquer you. If there are any chains on you, you break them. Never give up hope.
Govinda: Also, that the power of imagination is a beautiful thing. It's really a story of the human spirit.
How old were you when you watched Kill Bill, or Pulp Fiction?
Mukunda: I was, like, 12 or 13.
I may sound like a parent here, but do you think it's appropriate for kids that age to watch those films?
Mukunda: The full-version movies, uncut for TV? Um. No. You should always have someone watching with you, to explain it. Because kids love action movies and Kill Bill is, like, a huge action movie. It's just the blood and guts that would get to them.
You and your brothers sometimes recreated films in your apartment. Then you took those characters into the world: In The Wolfpack, there are scenes of the six of you roaming the streets of New York in your Reservoir Dogs costumes. You've clearly been influenced by the films.
Mukunda: Oh, absolutely.
Govinda: It makes a strong statement about what we're passionate about. Everybody knows it's a reference from the movie. They see us in the suits, like a pack of wolves: "Oh, it's Reservoir Dogs." But then the question comes as to why you do it, and it's really art. Art's expressing what you love.
You've got a collection of thousands of films at home. Which would be in your Top 5?
Mukunda: Out of order and off the top of my head: 2001 A Space Odyssey, The Dark Knight, Halloween, No Country for Old Men and Pulp Fiction.
Govinda: For me, Taxi Driver, Blade Runner, Cinema Paradiso, Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil.
Taxi Driver, huh? Have either of you met Martin Scorsese yet?
Govinda: We have not personally met Scorsese yet, but we are still hoping.
As The Wolfpack made its way into the world, at Sundance and the Tribeca Film Festival, have you met filmmakers you were particularly excited about?
Mukunda: Oh, yes. One of my favourite writers of all time in cinema, Jonathan Nolan, the brother of Christopher Nolan.
Yes, I think I saw that on your Twitter feed.
Mukunda: Oh, you've been following! Great! Look on our Instagram and Facebook, too!
I'm more of a Twitter guy. Sorry, go on.
Mukunda: And Greta Gerwig.
Govinda: And Brit Marling.
Mukunda: That was amazing. And Spike Jonze, as well.
Where was that?
Mukunda: At his house. He's hosting our movie and we're doing a Q&A with him.
That must be a heady experience, to have gone from being locked in five years ago to this similarly unreal set of circumstances: flying off to film festivals, being in the spotlight.
Govinda: Yeah. We were obviously really fanning out. Sometimes you'd find yourself in a room talking to a director you were a fan of, growing up, and then you realize you're actually there, and like, it's very mind-swirling.
In The Wolfpack, we only see re-creations of dark and frankly sometimes horrific films: Reservoir Dogs, Halloween. Did you recreate other, lighter ones that didn't make it into Wolfpack?
Mukunda: I believe there was. There was the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.
Oh. Because The Wolfpack implies that you're drawn to the darker stuff.
Govinda: The darker stuff just makes good cinema.
This interview has been condensed and edited.