The Elephant in the Room

If there's an unspoken elephant in your story, it's your job to confront it.

Not necessarily aggressively, and not necessarily at first...

...but the elephant must (ALWAYS) be confronted.

After seeing Crystal Moselle's "The Wolfpack" (2015) - despite all the obvious praiseworthy aspects of the movie - I had a major problem with one key aspect of the movie: specifically, the way she dealt with the elephant in the room :: the dad.

For those who haven't seen the movie, it's basically a story about an oppressive father who keeps his seven children locked up in a dingy New York apartment.

Their financial situation is precarious, their environment drab, with tension in every room.

The father keeps them locked up "for their safety" under the assumption that socializing with the outside world will only bring about their ruin.

So they retreat into the world of movies, and create for themselves a cardboard-constructed world where they reenact their favorite scenes together.

Okay, that's lovely.

The synopsis on its own easily suggests, "WOW! What a find!"

The movie itself, however, does not satisfyingly addresses the main threads.

Who is the dad?

Why is he this way?

Where did he get these ideas from?

Why oppression?

Did he really think it was going to work in the long run?

Why does he get drunk so often?

What did he hope for in his life?

What's the story with their finances?

Why is the mom staying with this guy?

How do they get by with so many kids?

What do the kids want for themselves?

How did the filmmaker meet the kids?

What did the kids think of finally starring in their own movie?

And if they refuse to answer any of these questions, then showing that refusal.

Much is alluded too, but not much is certain.

Other threads are begun in the film, also, then dropped.

There are times in your story where you must be concrete.

This is how you create a structure.

If something stands out in the mind of the viewer, something that obviously must be addressed, address it.

Don't make "Citizen Kane" without Charlie Kane.

Don't make "Roger & Me" without Roger... or you. 

I could imagine a more experienced documentarian - like Nick Broomfield - creating a frame story around the family: one of his discovering them, one where he adds commentary on what he believes to be going on.

Also, the inevitable confrontation with the elephant in the room.

Broomfield, no matter the emotional cost, confronted Courtney Love and Suge Knight.

Moselle should've confronted the dad head on and demanded some real answers. 

Not only would the kids have loved it, but it makes great cinema.

These changes alone could've turned this pretty good film into an instant classic.

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