The film Misha and the Wolves, written and directed by Sam Hobkinson, which premiered Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival, is the dramatic tale of a woman whose Holocaust memoir took the world by storm, before a fallout with her publisher revealed an audacious deception created to hide a darker truth.
Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years, by Misha Defonseca, was first published in 1997 as a memoir telling how the author survived the Holocaust as a young Jewish girl, wandering throughout Europe in search of her parents. The book sold well in several countries and was made into a movie titled, Survivre avec les loups (Surviving with the Wolves), recalling the author’s claim that she was adopted by a pack of wolves who protected her.
And the, on February 29, 2008, Defonseca confessed that her book was fake. Her real name was Monique de Wael, and while her parents had been taken away by the Nazis, they were not Jewish but Roman Catholic members of the Belgian Resistance. Also – she did not leave her home during the war, as she claims in the book. Her attorneys sent her confession to the Brussels newspaper Le Soir, where she claimed that her story “is not actual reality, but was my reality, my way of surviving,” and that she “found it difficult to differentiate between what was real and what was part of my imagination.”
Netflix announced on Monday that it would be streaming Misha and the Wolves, produced by MetFilm Sales. In addition, Netflix will debut the film exclusively in North America and several other markets — and not the Sundance Film Festival.
But before you rush to your screen to spend your valuable Corona-at-home time watching this bizarre testimony of human weirdness, we recommend you read Indiewire’s review of filmmaker Sam Hobkinson’s work (Survivor’s Wild Tale Unravels in Frustrating Holocaust Doc).
Indiewire’s David Ehrlich notes that Hobkinson “takes great pleasure in dramatizing the nature of those details, devoting long and breathless passages to banal matters of process. Arresting as it can be to hear a colorful group of amateur detectives wax suspenseful about following clues into the recesses of pre-war paperwork, the emphasis on ‘how’ over ‘why’ leaves Misha and the Wolves with an empty hole in its center that Hobkinson never manages to fill. It’s maddening to watch a film so ostentatiously preoccupied with facts — with unearthing them, dusting them off, and then throwing them in our faces — that it loses sight of the age-old truth that it seems to intuit from the start: Facts are the least interesting part of any good story. The more we learn about Defonseca’s truth, the more frustrating it becomes that Hobkinson seems only peripherally interested in defining what that might be.”
On the other hand, Deadline’s Matthew Carey (Sundance Documentary Recounts A Woman’s Holocaust Tale Too Amazing To Be True) liked the movie a whole lot, noting: “With expert craftsmanship, director Sam Hobkinson reveals the extraordinary turn of events. […] Misha and the Wolves uses techniques that are becoming increasingly common in documentary—sophisticated recreations and exposing the filmmaking apparatus behind the scenes, like cameras and lights as they are set up and taken down. All of this is particularly appropriate for a film that’s about how we construct narratives and find ourselves so eager to believe.”