Wednesday, September 22, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 29
Signup

Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review
A QUIET PLACE PART II
ANOTHER ROUND
BINGEABLE: 100 FOOT WAVE (2021-)
BINGEABLE: BARRY (2018-)
BINGEABLE: CLICKBAIT
BINGEABLE: FLEABAG (2016-2019)
BINGEABLE: SWEET TOOTH
BINGEABLE: THE WHITE LOTUS
BINGEABLE: TITANS (2018-)
BLACK WIDOW
BLAST FROM THE PAST: CARRIE (1976)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE MATRIX (1999)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE PRESTIGE (2006)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: WILD AT HEART (1990)
BOSS LEVEL
CANDYMAN
CRY MACHO
GUILTY PLEASURE: BACHELOR IN PARADISE (2014-)
GUILTY PLEASURES: CHEER (2020)
GUILTY PLEASURES: GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE
GUILTY PLEASURES: JOLT
HAVE A GOOD TRIP: ADVENTURES IN PSYCHEDELICS
HEARST CASTLE: BUILDING THE DREAM (1996)
I CARE A LOT
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
IRRESISTIBLE
LIMBO
MISHA AND THE WOLVES (2021)
NEW FLICKS: BLOOD RED SKY
NEW FLICKS: CODA
NEW FLICKS: COPSHOP
NEW FLICKS: CRUELLA
NEW FLICKS: REMINISCENCE
NEW FLICKS: SWEET GIRL
NEW FLICKS: THE SUICIDE SQUAD
NEW FLICKS: VAL (2021)
NINE DAYS
NO SUDDEN MOVE
PIG
ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN (2021)
SOUL
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM (2019)
THE LAST BLOCKBUSTER (2020)
THE MAP OF TINY PERFECT THINGS
THE NEW MUTANTS
THE PAPER TIGERS
THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN
THE SUNLIT NIGHT
TV REVIEW: A WILDERNESS OF ERROR (2020)
TV REVIEW: BATES MOTEL
TV REVIEW: DEFENDING JACOB
TV REVIEW: EXTERMINATE ALL THE BRUTES (2021)
TV REVIEW: HELL ON WHEELS (2011-2016)
TV REVIEW: HOMECOMING
TV REVIEW: HOW TO WITH JOHN WILSON
TV REVIEW: I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE
TV REVIEW: I MAY DESTROY YOU
TV REVIEW: LENOX HILL
TV REVIEW: LITTLE AMERICA
TV REVIEW: MARE OF EASTTOWN
TV REVIEW: MRS. AMERICA
TV REVIEW: ONE MISSISSIPPI
TV REVIEW: PAINTING WITH JOHN (2021)
TV REVIEW: RAMY
TV REVIEW: RUN
TV REVIEW: SPACE FORCE
TV REVIEW: TABOO
TV REVIEW: TED LASSO (2020-)
TV REVIEW: THE BOYS
TV REVIEW: THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD
TV REVIEW: THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT
TV REVIEW: THE LAST KINGDOM
TV REVIEW: THE MIDNIGHT GOSPEL
TV REVIEW: THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL OF ALL (2020)
TV REVIEW: THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA
TV REVIEW: THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT
TV REVIEW: THE VOW
TV REVIEW: TREADSTONE (2019)
TV REVIEW: UNDONE
TV REVIEW: WANDAVISION
TV REVIEW: WARRIOR
TV REVIEW: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
TV REVIEW: ZEROZEROZERO
UNDERRATED: BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
UNDERRATED: THE KINGDOM (2007)

‘Misha and the Wolves’ tells poignant truth

MISHA AND THE WOLVES (2021)

PHOTO BY , COURTESY OF ARTS ALLIANCE PRODUCTIONS

MISHA AND THE WOLVES (2021)


Where is it playing?: Netflix

What's it rated?: PG-13

What's it worth?: $Full price (Caleb Wiseblood)

What's it worth?: $Full price (Téa Main)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

Documentarian Sam Hobkinson (The Kleptocrats, The Hunt for the Boston Bombers) directs this exploration of the events and circumstances surrounding the writing, publishing, and investigation of Misha Defonseca’s infamous memoir, as well as the book’s reception (both before and after the book was exposed for being fraudulent). (90 min.)

Caleb: It’s hard to walk away from Misha and The Wolves without scolding its titular subject, Misha Defonseca, who spent several years impersonating a Holocaust survivor, while making millions of dollars from a fake memoir. This engrossing documentary made me question why I hadn’t heard of this bizarre scandal prior to watching the film. Defonseca’s 1997 novel, Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years, claims to recount her experiences as a 7-year-old Jewish girl living in Belgium during Nazi occupation. After her parents are arrested and deported, she flees into the forest where she befriends a pack of wolves, which she describes as becoming an adoptive family of sorts. Lying about being raised by wolves is one thing, but pretending to be a Jewish refugee during World War II is quite another. In 2008, after more than a decade of enjoying the book’s financial successes (there was even a Disney movie in the works at one point), Defonseca became scrutinized after evidence disproving her tale came to light (including records showing that her family was actually Catholic, not Jewish). As the documentary shows, tracking down these documents was the result of a team effort between several individuals, including Belgian genealogist Evelyne Haendel, who herself is an actual Holocaust survivor (hidden at a young age and adopted into a new family after her parents were deported to Auschwitz in 1942). Haendel playing an integral part in Defonseca’s downfall feels like poetic justice to me.

Téa: Misha and The Wolves takes viewers on a whirlwind journey of emotions: first evoking sympathy for Defonseca’s harrowing story of survival, and then, almost as quickly, eliciting revulsion for this imposter who we quickly learn has sought to profit off of the Holocaust, painting a picture of trauma and suffering she didn’t actually experience. Doubt is first cast on Defonseca’s story by the publisher of her memoir, Jane Daniel, who actively worked to debunk the story after she was sued by Defonseca to the tune of $22.5 million (apparently for mishandling the book’s marketing efforts). Documents uncovered by Daniel, as well as genealogists Haendel and Sharon Sergeant, ultimately expose Defonseca’s elaborate web of lies. Far from a harmless fib, Defonseca’s tale was an insult to true Holocaust survivors, a blaring falsehood that brought with it the dangerous possibility of drowning out genuine stories of survival and resilience.

Caleb: I’m glad some of the interviewees make a point to spell out how Defonseca’s actions could lead to such dangerous consequences. I also appreciate that the documentary spends time with individuals from the author’s own small-knit community in Millis, Massachusetts (where she and her husband moved to from Belgium during the late ’80s), including friends and neighbors, who were affected by the scandal in less damaging ways, but hurtful nevertheless. “Everybody felt betrayed,” says one of the author’s next-door neighbors, Pat Cunningham, who first heard Defonseca’s fabricated stories over tea one day, years before the book was written and published. Decades later, after hearing the memoir was revealed to be fraudulent, and the author’s after-the-fact defense that she always had trouble differentiating between reality and her imagination, Cunningham says she no longer feels comfortable speaking to Defonseca (who still lives in the same town to this day). As easy as it is to root against Defonseca though, I really wish documentarian Sam Hobkinson was able to get her on board for this film (the author refused to be interviewed, although an actress plays her in dramatizations). I want to hear more of her perspective, no matter how skewed.

Téa: While Defonseca is the documentary’s clear villain, her publisher, Daniel, does not escape scrutiny for her role in propagating such a bizarre and unbelievable story. Holocaust historian Debórah Dwork reveals that she received a letter and a manuscript of Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years from Daniel in 1996 (one year prior to the memoir’s publication) and after reading, called Daniel and urged her not to go forward with publishing the story; as Dwork put it, “this narrative just did not work.” So why did Daniel decide to publish the memoir? Perhaps the glimmering promise of being picked up by Disney and Oprah Winfrey were just too enticing to resist, particularly for an admittedly small and relatively obscure publishing company such as Daniel’s Mt. Ivy Press. Still, the question remains: How could Daniel reconcile Defonseca’s outlandish claims with an expert’s clear assertion that this story could not possibly be true? Was Daniel blinded by the possibility of success that she chose to put all her eggs in Defonseca’s dubious basket? Hobkinson subtly ventures to suggest that perhaps Daniel’s blind faith in Defonseca’s wild story was fueled by her hunger for success. While I’m not suggesting that the blame for this twisted hoax rests entirely with Daniel, I do believe that she chose to keep her head in the sand in the hope that it would result in the glory she so craved. Ultimately, Daniel’s willful ignorance would be both her and Defonseca’s downfall—because sometimes, a story is just too good to be true.

Sun Screen was written by Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood and freelancer Téa Main this week. Send comments to cwiseblood@santamariasun.com.










Weekly Poll
What are the most important conversations to be having right now when it comes to policing?

We need to address how racial bias influences policing.
We should focus on funding the police so they can do their job.
Mental health is where our dollars need to go, both in and out of the police department.
As one Sept. 20 community input meeting attendee said,

| Poll Results






My 805 Tix - Tickets to upcoming events