Sundance 2021: Misha and the Wolves

Is the world ready for a post-modern holocaust movie?

Too late. Ready or not, here it is! Don’t blame director Sam Hobkinson, he’s just the guy delivering the bad news, but he’s delivering it because it’s interesting, it’s juicy, and you’re going to be thinking about it for a long, long time.

Misha Defonseca had been living in America for years, hazy about her past until one day she started opening up. As a little girl, her parents were murdered by Nazis and into the forest she fled, surviving thanks to the kindness of the wolves who adopted her. You read that right: wolves adopted her. Which is why she’s practically the Carole Baskin of wolves today (if you live under a rock and didn’t watch Tiger King on Netflix last year, you missed out, but long story short, Carole Baskin is the Tiger Queen). It’s a pretty amazing story, so amazing that a publisher comes calling, eager to make millions off the story, and soon Misha’s story is blowing up. Misha gladly travels all over Europe, accepting accolades, repeating her inspiring story, and seeing her book translated into many languages. Back home, she’s a little more reticent. Oprah comes calling and Misha doesn’t call back. Imagine the temerity! Misha’s publisher is pretty miffed at the missed opportunities, but then again, Misha’s pretty miffed at the publisher, who’s hiding money. So Misha sues the publisher and ruins her name and gets a huge judgement because she’s a sympathetic holocaust survivor and the publisher’s just a bitch who bilked her. But actually, the publisher’s beginning to poke holes in Misha’s story, and a researcher well versed in holocaust investigations agrees that Misha’s story isn’t quite holding up. But to accuse a survivor of lying is pretty delicate work and holocaust denial is pretty unpopular.

Hobkinson’s documentary is more twisty and turny than any detective story, and every time you think you’ve figured it out, you’re probably about due for another hairpin curve. You absolutely need to check this one out and be prepared to do your best sleuthing. It’s not often that a documentary can cultivate this much suspense and sustain it during most of its run. It’s a wild, well-told story that’s an engrossing watch and will pay dividends at dinner parties (or zoom dates) for years to come.

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