“Misha And The Wolves” is an incredible survival story that will leave you awestruck. The film, which tells the true story of Misha, a young Zoroastrian boy, takes you back to the early years after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. With very little money, his family is forced to leave their home and seek refuge in the desert. There they are forced to make a tough choice: kill or be killed.
Joni Soffron, co-founder of a wolf sanctuary in Ipswich, Massachusetts, tells Misha Defonseca’s fantastic story of finding shelter in a pack of wolves while wandering through Nazi Germany in search of her deported parents. Misha’s bond with the animals in her sanctuary was observed by Soffron. The two women became friendly. There’s a reason Soffron’s tone is so flat, given how this whole scenario unfolded in “Misha and the Wolves.” Sam Hobkinson’s latest documentary is both intriguing and perplexing. She had earned it. It is, in fact, “quite a story.”
The “story” garnered worldwide news when it initially broke. To summarize, Misha, an immigrant to a small Massachusetts town, claimed she was taken in by a Catholic family and given a new identity to hide her Jewish heritage after the Nazis imprisoned her parents. Many of the era’s “hidden children” told their stories in this way. Misha’s decision to walk to her parents was unique, and all those wolves were really distinct. Misha’s book, Surviving with Wolves, was published in 1997 by a small local press.
Sales were slow at first, but they began to take up when Oprah Winfrey showed interest in include the book in her Book Club. Defonseca was welcomed by Europe. The book was translated into many languages and adapted into a film by Véra Belmont, a French director, in 2007. Misha attended press junkets, film festivals, debate programs, and conferences on a regular basis. That’s pretty much all there is to it without getting into spoiler territory.
Each character is introduced with a Wes Anderson-style title card: “The Neighbor” in “Misha and the Wolves,” which draws the viewer into the story’s interconnecting webs. “The Genealogist,” as the title suggests. “The Wolf Expert,” as the title suggests. While you may be uncertain who to trust at first, “Misha and the Wolves” promotes belief through re-enactments for the first half-hour or so. The film begins with a little girl suffering alone in a cold wilderness, followed by required news footage of detention camps and conflict, then interviews with Misha herself, whose passionate delivery is captivating.
The movie eventually changes into a more traditional investigative narrative, with genealogists, wolf experts, and Holocaust historians putting together different pieces to determine what was and wasn’t true about Misha’s tale. Nobody wants to argue with Misha’s tale or a Holocaust survivor’s “lived experience,” particularly when her story has touched so many people. The Massachusetts radio host who first interviewed Misha said, “Far be it from me to question her.”
All of this is fascinating territory, but Hobkinson seems to be more concerned in experimenting aesthetically, sowing doubt, and blindfolding the audience’s eyes, with one extremely irritating “Gotcha!” not revealed until the end. This kind of information may be useful, particularly in fraud tales. Seeing the duping process and people disregarding red flags is eye-opening. Internet fraud thrives in this environment (for example, the Kaycee Nicole scam). People were swept away not just by Kaycee Nicole’s predicament, but also by their emotional capacity (to the point of leaving critical thinking at the door).
Jane Daniel, the publisher who began it all, talks about how she felt when she first heard Misha’s tale and saw dollar signs. Misha’s wolf pack had the potential to drive her over the edge, and her publishing business was tiny. With frightening melodramatic music cues and piercing closeups of Jane’s eyes, Hobkinson makes daring choices, presenting her as a monster, or maybe a victim, you’re not sure. In any event, these choices are designed to deceive.
Several scenes later in the film show an elderly Belgian genealogist (and Holocaust survivor) combing through old phone books and dusty documents for clues to Misha’s true origin. The detective work is where the story truly takes off, as these people who care about truth fact-check the narrative. It’s tedious work, and it’s not as visually appealing as, say, emotive re-enactments, but the detective work is where the story truly takes off, as these people who care about truth fact-check the narrative. Catfishing the audience is the least interesting method for this content.
The internet is referred to as a “superhighway of information.” Anyone may do a search for anything, and libraries are widely available. However, as we all know, things did not go as planned. A time continuum’s fragile threads are broken. There is widespread ignorance about recent events (the twentieth century is very recent). Alternative histories gain traction in this vacuum, and objectivity itself is questioned. Debórah Dwork, a Holocaust historian, is interviewed in “Misha and the Wolves.” Her perspective is refreshingly clear, situating the story within a larger context of Holocaust denial and the need of historical accuracy. These are all important problems, but they come so late in the movie that they almost seem like afterthoughts.
SCORE: 8 OUT OF 10
Sometimes the only way to get out of a situation is to run. And sometimes, the only way to survive is to make sure nothing gets you.. Read more about misha and the wolves trailer and let us know what you think.