Sundance 2021: Misha and the Wolves

A still from Misha and the Wolves by Sam Hobkinson, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Misha and the Wolves tells the story of Misha Defonseca in this-really-happened documentary that is truly stranger-than-fiction.

Misha Defonseca was only 7 years old when her parents were arrested and taken by the Nazis.  They were taken to Auschwitz.  Sadly, we all know what happens next.  You cannot blame her for doing what she can to survive.  From watching films like Defiance, we know that many Jews would turn to the woods and hide.  Misha would do the same exact thing but with a twist.  She would end up living with a pack of wolves.  At least, this is what we learn about her early in the film.  Before the twists and turns begin to show up!

Here’s how incredible Misha’s story was upon publication in April 1997: Hollywood studios–including Disney–were going after the film rights.  Oprah’s Book Club was even interested in featuring Misha’s story.  Oprah sent a film crew to tape Misha at Wolf Hollow and the story of the footage is nerve-wracking.  I mean, a wolf climbing up and having her head between their fangs?  This is when I would start to have a panic attack!  And then the story gets even crazier: Misha decides she does not want to attend the Oprah taping in Chicago.  This is where the drama really begins.  A three-year feud ends up with a lawsuit and I know it’s a cliché but you will not believe what happens next!

Listen, as much as I would like to expand on this film, this really is one where you need to know as little as possible.  The details are beyond–well, I don’t even know where to begin.  Misha and the Wolves sucks you in from the get-go and takes viewers on a wild ride.  But beyond this, I’m going to say very little other than it made me angry.

While I gravitate towards comedies, anything Jewish related will immediately grab my attention.  I am a third-generation Jewish-American on my father’s side.  On my mother’s side, I am a fourth-generation Jewish-American.  I am so thankful that my great-grandparents left Europe for America.  But unfortunately, we did suffer family losses during the Holocaust.  There are a few losses in the extended family but closer to home, my great-aunt and uncle lost their lives along with some of their children.  Only one child would survive.

Even when the films can be painful, I am always drawn to films about the Holocaust.  Everybody has their own story to tell–Schindler’s List is Steven Spielberg’s greatest legacy because of how many survivors would begin to open up about this very dark time in history.  It is because of this that so many things about this film–this story–make me angry.  I have questions.  So many of them.  My first question is: Why?  Why would you do this?  For those new to Misha’s story, it has been very public since 2008. You can find no shortage of articles on JTA.  Unbelievable!

To say that Misha and the Wolves is stranger-than-fiction would not be an understatement.


Misha and the Wolves holds its world premiere during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.