A woman’s Holocaust memoir becomes an international scandal in Sam Hobkinson’s compelling documentary.
In 1997, an extraordinary memoir was published detailing the experiences of a Holocaust survivor who was raised by a pack of wolves. The book was a best-seller in France and Italy, and was even optioned by Disney to be adapted into a feature. There was just one problem: none of it was true.
It would be over 20 years before Misha Defonseca (real name Monique de Wael) admitted her lie, but some had suspected as much for years – including Jane Daniel, the publisher she had sued over the book’s distribution and royalties. Sam Hobkinson’s documentary tracks the story across decades, delving into the reality that de Wael obscured, and how she fabricated a tale that captured the imagination of readers around the world.
Interviews form the majority of the film, chiefly with Daniel and Belgian genealogist Evelyne Haendel, whose parents were killed in the Holocaust. The pair turned amateur detectives to investigate the discrepancies in Misha’s story. Their persistence and meticulous research is presented in fascinating detail, while Hobkinson imbues the film with a fairy tale-like quality which mimics the fantastical nature of its source material.
The phenomenon of writers who fabricate events in order to sell books persists to this day but the truth is often stranger than fiction, and this tale of deception is told with artistic confidence and explores not only what drove de Wael to lie, but why it was so easy for people to believe her.
Published 1 Sep 2021
Tags: Misha and the Wolves Sam Hobkinson
Interesting premise but potential for lacklustre execution.
A compelling story, well-researched and sensitively told.
Not particularly memorable, but highly immersive in the moment.