Sundance 2021: ‘Misha and the Wolves’

Nazis took Misha Defonseca’s parents away, and, at 7 years old, she made her way through miles of wilderness in hopes of finding them—or so the story goes. Misha and the Wolves is about a woman who told a false story about her experiences during one of the most horrendous periods of human history and profited from it.

We learn that an elderly Defonseca, living in a small Massachusetts town, shared her story on the bimah at her synagogue before it started spreading around the world. She told congregants her parents were deported from Belgium to Germany for being Jewish and she went into hiding with a Catholic family. Missing her parents and convincing herself they were alive, she claimed she set out across miles of wilderness to find them, staying away from cities where the war was waged and surviving the harsh terrain with a pack of wolves. When her book came out, Misha had people around the world, including a wolf handler she became close to, convinced. As sales dwindled, Misha turned down an Oprah appearance and filed a lawsuit against her publisher, Jane Daniel, over royalties. Losing the case, Daniel was labeled the greedy publisher who took advantage of a Holocaust survivor.

Then Daniel took a closer look at Misha’s claims.

With actual Holocaust survivor Evelyne Haendel and other researchers, Jane found out Misha was really Monique. Through their discoveries, the documentary explains how events in Misha’s life may have made her want to escape into one she fabricated.

At times, Misha and the Wolves may make you feel either sympathy or disdain for Jane and Misha. You’ll start to tear up during different parts of the film for completely different reasons. As Misha’s story falls apart, the real terror Evelyne faced is revealed.

While Misha didn’t want to be interviewed, director Sam Hobkinson found a clever way to “include” her and illustrate her story being disassembled.

Read more of our Sundance reviews.

Jaime Winston
Jaime Winston
Jaime is a contributing writer for Salt Lake magazine. Formerly, he served as our editorial intern, then as our assistant web editor, and, finally, as our web editor. Now, he works full time at Weber State University, where he talks to ducks and people think he's crazy. While he covers many different topics, he is especially interested in nerdy entertainment, from artist alley at FanX to Sundance's Midnight screenings.

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