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7 Siblings Who Haven’t Left Their New York Apartment in 14 Years Learned about the World by Watching Movies

Although the Angulo siblings grew up in New York, they had no idea what the city was like for almost 14 years. They spent their entire childhood confined to their parents’ four bedroom apartment, learning about the outside world solely through films. Their story is now the subject of The Wolfpack, a documentary made by filmmaker Crystal Moselle.

The siblings – Bhagavan, 23, twins Govinda and Narayana, 22, Mukunda, 20, Krisna, 18, Jagadesh, 17, and their sister Visnu – were kept indoors by their father Oscar, a Peruvian immigrant and Hare Krishna devotee. He was apparently convinced that the outside world would corrupt his children and kept the front door locked at all times. But after 14 long years, one of the brothers managed to escape, paving the way for his siblings to break free.

It was during one of those rare escapes in 2010 that Moselle spotted the six Angulo brothers on First Avenue – they were all walking in a ‘pack’, wearing sunglasses, inspired by their favorite film Reservoir Dogs. “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,” Moselle said.

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Curious to learn more about the family, the filmmaker befriended the brothers and slowly earned their parents’ trust as well. In time, she was invited into their sheltered world, and allowed to bring in her camera as well. She spent months filming the siblings, who have watched thousands of movies and spend a lot of their time trying to re-enact the scenes in exact detail, with homemade props and costumes.

“They had no friends,” Moselle explained. “They were homeschooled and their only window to the world was movies. “Everything was pretty much kept within the household. What’s so fascinating about them is that they really have created their own world through their interpretations of the films they have watched.”

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One scene in the film shows the brothers enact a scene from Christopher Nolan’s film The Dark Knight. “This outfit is made from cereal boxes and yoga mats,” one of the brothers explained. “After I saw The Dark Knight, that made me believe that something was possible to happen. Not because it was Batman, it’s because it felt like another world. I did everything I could to make that world come true. To escape my world.”

Overall, the brothers have watched over 5,000 movies that were either rented or purchased at a low price. “It’s fascinating what the human spirit does when it’s confined,” Moselle observed. “The downside to all the movies is that there are certain formulas to them. Real life is different. In real life, the girl doesn’t always break your heart. The boys are struggling to understand that.”

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Moselle explained that the mother Susanne appears to have been controlled to the same extent that her children were. A former hippie from the Midwest, she was the sole provider and educator for the family.

While Susanne appears more on camera, father Oscar also took his time to open up to Moselle and her crew. He apparently is unable to shake the feeling that New York will ‘contaminate’ his children. But in spite of his paranoia and intensely reserved nature, Moselle said that she’d reserve judgement on him. Once an aspiring musician with a deep love for AC/DC, he has managed to instill a love for music in his children.

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“The thing is, these brothers are some of the most gentle, insightful, curious people I’ve ever met. Something was clearly done right,” she said in an interview with The Times.

The Angulo brothers eventually did manage to venture outside – except the sister Visnu, the eldest, who has special needs. Bhagavan, the eldest, has joined a hip-hop conservatory where he is learning how to dance. Govinda is the first and only brother who moved out of the apartment, wanting to assert his individuality. He now works as an AC on various productions and aspires to become a director of photography.

 

Narayana, on the other hand, is interested in the environment – he currently works for an anti-fracking organisation. He’s also a voracious reader with a vast knowledge of films. Makunda, the unspoken leader of the brothers, was the first one to ever leave the apartment. He is now an aspiring writer and director. Krisna is into music and 80s culture, along with Jagadesh, the youngest.

The brothers, along with their mother, traveled to Sundance to attend the festival last month, where The Wolfpack took home the Grand Jury Prize for best U.S. documentary.

Photos: The Wolfpack

Sources: The New York Times, New York Daily News

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