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#HotDocs21 Review: Misha and the Wolves

May 3, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2021 Hot Docs Festival is running virtually from April 29th to May 9th, all films are available to stream for audiences across Canada

The title subject of the documentary Misha and the Wolves is Misha Defonseca, a Belgian Holocaust survivor who settled in Massachusetts, where her incredible story about escaping the Nazis on foot as a child, and surviving in the woods with a pack of wolves as World War II raged around her, attracted the attention of her community and then the world.

The story became the source of a popular memoir when one of her neighbours, Jane Daniel, who ran a small publishing company, approached her about writing a book in the 1990s. The book attracted the attention of Disney, who wanted the movie rights, and became a sensation in Europe, sending Defonseca on an international press tour. But a bitter lawsuit accompanied the book’s publication, which led Daniel to start asking some serious and potentially inflammatory questions about Misha’s story.

I don’t want to spoil what happened next, but I will say that Misha and the Wolves is one of those stranger than fiction documentaries that delivers some twists and turns in its true story. Director Sam Hobkinson does a fine job of unravelling the narrative. He employs a number of techniques to give his film a cinematic flair, including reenacted scenes of a young Misha wandering through the woods.

We know something is fishy right from the start, and this is one of those films that, as we’re watching it, we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even if you already have some idea of where the story is going, or can basically figure it out, Hobkinson has enough filmmaking tricks up his sleeve to keep it engaging and unpredictable. If you like stranger than fiction docs, Misha and the Wolves is a good one, becoming a rumination on truth, and why we automatically choose to believe certain things.

Misha and the Wolves is available to watch from April 29th until May 9th. It includes a Q&A. Digital tickets and more information can be found right here.

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