Doubts, childhood memories, and the storytelling of a Holocaust survivor ignite the compelling Sundance documentary ‘Misha and the Wolves.’

Filmmaker Sam Hobkinson pairs an astounding Holocaust story and detective sleuthing in the Sundance documentary ‘Misha and the Wolves.’

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Filmmaker Sam Hobkinson pairs an astounding Holocaust story and a detective sleuthing in the Sundance documentary ‘Misha and the Wolves.’ Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The spider’s web of agendas, characters, and subplots is vast in filmmaker Sam Hobkinson’s ‘Misha and the Wolves,’ a fascinating non-fiction feature that’s as much a detective story as a documentary. Misha Defonseca is an American immigrant living modestly with her husband in a small New England town. Misha starts to attract local attention after sharing her one-of-a-kind story about surviving in the German forest and running with wolves as a young girl while searching for her missing parents during World War II. One of the people who reach out to Misha is an aspiring publisher who wants Misha’s story to become a book.

Misha and the Wolves’ unfolds into parallel storylines involving a big-money lawsuit with her American-based publisher, growing acclaim around the European releases of her book and a film adaptation, and an investigation into Misha’s real family history. Hobkinson delivers one of those true stories that are richer than fiction.

‘Misha and the Wolves’ is making its premiere in the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the reimagined Sundance Film Festival. The complex layers throughout ‘Misha and the Wolves’ involve the importance of Holocaust remembrance, the ambiguity of memory, and the creative parameters of storytelling. Dedicated genealogists and Brussels-based family historians surround Misha and the financially devastated publisher on her trail. As Misha’s story unfolds, the clouds of memory break, and each new revelation about Misha’s childhood delivers a dramatic jolt to the movie. By the film’s closing moments, the skilled genealogists near the film’s start completely transform into history detectives.

Hobkinson, editor Peter Norrey, and cinematographer Will Pugh keep the narrative concise and swiftly moving no matter how complex, and twisty Misha’s stories become. Hobkinson finds the cinematic sweet spot between animation, archival footage, and film’s numerous face-the-camera interviews. Checking all the non-fiction boxes, Hobkinson and his crew deliver best-in-class production.

True to the ambiguities surrounding Misha’s story, Hobkinson keeps the narrative grounded and judgment-free. There’s empathy throughout ‘Misha and the Wolves’ and a sympathetic look at Misha’s life story and her creative choices around sharing that story with the world.

Director: Sam Hobkinson

Editor: Peter Norrey

Cinematographer: Will Pugh

Production APT Film and Television, Arts Alliance Productions, Bright Yellow Films, Las Belgas, and Met Film Production

Distributor: TBD

Unrated

Air Date: TBD

Behind the Curtain: Reading a British newspaper article about Misha Defonseca inspired Sam Hobkinson to make ‘Misha and the Wolves.’

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