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Los Lobos (The Wolves) cover image

Los Lobos (The Wolves) 2019

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Pragda, 302 Bedford Ave., #136, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Produced by Leticia Carrillo
Directed by Samuel Kishi Leopo
Streaming, 95 mins

High School - General Adult
Children; Immigration; Labor

Date Entered: 05/13/2022

Reviewed by Gisèle Tanasse, University of California Berkeley

Los Lobos follows the struggles of single mother Lucía and her two young sons, Max and Leo, in their early days of their arrival in New Mexico. Director Samuel Kishi Leopo dramatizes his own childhood experience, bringing it to vibrant life with a sprinkle of documentary and a dash of playful animation, shining a light on the physical and emotional brutality of poverty and displacement for immigrants in the United States.

We only see glimmers of what led the family to leave home, the father having died from substance use disorder; the grandfather dying after a long illness. What is clear is that significant trauma led to the choice to leave home and there is no option to return. When the only remnant of their family structure, a treasured audiocassette, is broken, all would seem to be lost. However, infused into this heartbreaking tale is also the heartwarming, transformative story of the power of community and human compassion. Throughout the film we see joy, creativity, and humanity embedded in poverty, loss, and despair. Leopo craftily stages moments where we anticipate disastrous tipping points for the family: a property manager approaching the unsupervised boys evokes fear in the viewer, but rather than criminalizing Lucía by calling authorities, she helps them.

Similar to Pedro Costa’s In Vanda’s Room, we are often left wondering what is acted and what is documentary as we are seemingly trapped in this dingy, smelly room along with the boys. Leopo seems to constantly, but gently, rattle the fourth wall, reminding us that this is the story of real people: his own story, the story of his Albuquerque community. Some of this authenticity no doubt is due to the fact that the boys are played by real life brothers, Maximiliano Nájar Márquez and Leonardo Nájar Márquez, whose incredible performances are complemented by engaging performances by Martha Reyes Arias and the delightful Cici Lau.

Highly recommended for film studies, and courses focused on immigration, latinx/chicanx, childhood and labor as well as general collections. Would make a powerful addition to high school curricula, with note to review for language, violence, mild sexual content, and limited drug use.

Berlin Film Festival, Jury Grand Prix of the International Jury in Generation KPlus for the Best Feature Film, Independent Peace Film Award; Havana International Film Festival, Best Film SIGNIS Award; Miami International Film Festival, Best Film HBO Ibero-American; Olhar de Cinema, Critic's Award; Guanajuato International Film Festival, Best Film; Nara International Film Festival, Crystal Shika Award; Fribourg International Film Festival, Special Jury Prize

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.