Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Sep 5 2015, Page 87

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - September 5, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE D12 PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Franck Ndayubashe’s passion for fashion led to the founding of his Winnipeg- based line of accessories featuring Quebec- crafted wood bow ties and sunglasses. M YTHS and tales of the wild child run through our culture, from Romulus and Remus to Mowgli and Tarzan, along with true- life cases of “ feral children” ( most debunked). There is a persistent fascination with the idea of children living outside the bonds of ordinary human society. The Wolfpack , a strange and haunting documentary playing at Cinematheque until Sept. 24, offers a very 21stcentury version of this story. Rather than being raised by wolves in a forest, the six Angulo brothers were raised by Quentin Tarantino movies in a cramped New York apartment. They’re not nature boys. They’re pop- culture boys. Entering their world for five years, filmmaker Crystal Moselle raises unsettling questions about the relationships between parents and children, and between documentarian and subject. But some of the film’s trickiest questions concern the relationship between movies and life. For years the brothers, now between 17 and 23, along with their ( mostly off- camera) sister, were homeschooled by their mother, Suzanne, and more or less imprisoned and isolated by their father, Oscar, who possessed the only key to the front door. Oddly, Oscar’s paranoid fear about the taint of the outside world did not extend to movies. Confined to a 16th- floor apartment in a Lower East Side public- housing project, the brothers grew up watching and re- watching thousands of films, a mishmash of classics and comic- book adaptations and Tarantino and lots of violent, pulpy horror. The Wolfpack sets out a scenario in which our imprisoned boys experience the world almost exclusively through the screen of cinema. At times, it feels like a family tragedy, at other times like a disturbing modern fairy tale, or maybe a postmodern philosopher’s crazy thought experiment — an attempt to collapse any lingering distinctions between reality and representation. The boys’ responses can be a little wonky. “ It’s like 3D,” one of them says when Moselle films them on an early foray onto the streets of New York City. ( Led by brother Mukunda, they began venturing out of the apartment in 2010.) For these media- saturated kids, a treed New York park is like Fangorn Forest in Lord of the Rings , the sandy beach at Coney Island recalls Lawrence of Arabia . When some of the brothers travelled to the U. K. this year to help promote the documentary, they saw the landmarks of London through a filter of Austin Powers, James Bond and National Lampoon’s European Vacation movie references. In this sense, the brothers embody our media- stuffed contemporary condition. Mukunda might look eccentric when he’s brooding over the night city in a Batman outfit cunningly crafted from cardboard and old yoga mats. But really, he’s just an extreme version of a typical North American teenager, immersed in pop culture and film quotations, riffing on lines from Mean Girls or The Hangover . And while we fret about the impact of ever- present mass media and mass culture on our children, the Angulo siblings seem to offer a pretty optimistic outcome. Despite being raised on a glut of ultra- violent movies and deprived of most other normal social contacts, they come off as gentle, thoughtful, self- aware and endlessly creative. They have no problem differentiating between movies and real life. Mostly. ( There are occasional misfires and misreadings: When Mukunda first defied his father and left the apartment, he wore a freaky, homemade mask resembling the one worn in the Halloween movie series by killer Michael Myers. In his mind, Mukunda was protecting himself, but people on the street saw it differently, which is how the authorities first became involved with the family.) Being immersed in movies doesn’t pummel the boys into passivity but fires up their imaginations. The brothers aren’t just movie consumers. They are can- do, let’s- put- on- a- show producers, painstakingly recreating favourite scripts and then acting them out. In Be Kind Rewind mode, they rig up charming costumes and props with duct tape, old cereal boxes and DIY enthusiasm. The brothers’ extensive cinematic education might also explain why they are such suspiciously good documentary subjects. Creating their own little enclosed, idiosyncratic world, full of offbeat hobbies and vintage style, they pull off some real Wes Anderson moments, occasionally resembling an underclass version of The Royal Tenenbaums . Add in their habit of dressing like the characters from Reservoir Dogs and their keen sense of how to present themselves to the camera, and the lines between life and art, between documentary observation and intervention get a little hazy. Still, what The Wolfpack makes very clear is the way the movies, and the imagination and empathy involved in watching and making movies, helped these boys survive their difficult, claustrophobic childhood, make some sense of their bizarre history and their sad monster of a father and, ultimately, break away. We often think of the movies as escapist, but for the Angulo brothers, they offered an actual escape. alison. gillmor@ freepress. mb. ca D12 left turn intersection CONTINUED FROM D11 SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2015 Not only did the inquisitor buy three bow ties on the spot — Ndayubashe rarely leaves home without tucking a dozen or so in his carrying case, he said with a wink — when Ndayubashe went inside to pay for his gas, the first thing out of the cashier’s mouth was, “ Hey, can I ask you a question?” . . . Ndayubashe was born in the African nation of Burundi. When he was 13, his mother sent Ndayubashe and his 15- year- old brother to Montreal to stay with their older brother, who was already living in Quebec with a 30- yearold cousin. “ Basically, we moved ( to Canada) to escape the civil war back home,” Ndayubashe said. “ The war was terrible; I didn’t lose any family members to my knowledge, but I have friends that lost almost their entire family. Very sad stories.” Ndayubashe, whose mother tongue is French, spent eight years in Montreal. In 2009, however, he felt the urge to relocate to a different part of the country to complete his university studies — a “ quiet place” where there wouldn’t be too many distractions. A friend living in Winnipeg urged him to move west, telling him the prairie city would be a perfect fit. The only drawback, she warned, is the frigid winters. Ndayubashe arrived in January 2009 on a morning when the temperature was hovering around - 40 C. Because there was a minor problem with the plane he arrived on, he and his fellow passengers had to trek 100 metres or so across the tarmac to get to the terminal, he recalled. “ Even though we weren’t out there very long, I had never experienced anything so cold in my life,” he said. “ I was wondering, ‘ Is this Canada or Siberia?’ ” After graduating from the University of Winnipeg in 2012 with a degree in business administration, Ndayubashe chose to make Manitoba his permanent residence. He returned to Burundi in 2014 to attend a cousin’s wedding and it was during that trip he made up his mind to go into business for himself — primarily to help out people in Mutanga Sud, where he grew up. “ I was kind of shocked by what I saw there when I went back,” Ndayubashe said, taking a sip of coffee. “ The river I used to swim in when I was a kid was all dried up. The housing in my old neighbourhood was collapsing, most of the people I grew up with were out of work and the government didn’t seem to care.” Ndayubashe spent the return flight tossing ideas around in his head, wondering what he could do to raise money for his countrymen. He’d always been a bit of a clothes horse, so he considered a business that marketed bow ties made out of authentic African fabric. But after getting his mother to ship him a few metres of material, he wasn’t as impressed with the end product as he thought he would be. That’s when he recalled a wooden necklace he once owned, which people used to compliment every time he wore it. “ That’s it!” he told himself. “ I have to make my bow ties out of wood.” Off the Wood’s products are manufactured in rural Quebec by a person Ndayubashe has been buddies with since high school. A carpenter by trade, he told his chum “ No sweat” when Ndayubashe contacted him a year ago to see if he would be able to turn the bow tie dream into a reality. He crafted one tie for starters and mailed it off to his pal. Ndayubashe was blown away when he got his hands on it, and told his friend, “ Give me a few months to get some money together and then we’ll do this for real.” Off the Wood made its official debut in mid- June. The company currently markets eight styles of bow ties — each comes with an elasticized band that can be adjusted for any neck size — and 10 varieties of sunglasses. The funky fitments are available at a number of local retail locations, including For the People ( 106 Osborne St.), the Haberdashery ( 84 Albert St.) and Forks Trading Company ( second level of The Forks Market), or online at www. offthewood. ca. “ Franck approached us in July, wondering if we’d be interested in carrying his bow ties and sunglasses,” said Megan Basaraba, general manager of Forks Trading Company. “ It was actually really good timing, because we were about to introduce Manitoban- and Canadian- made apparel to our store for the first time, so his stuff went hand- in- hand with the types of items we were bringing in.” Last month, Basaraba hosted a clothing launch party at her store. Ndayubashe showed up in person to model his bow ties and shades for those in attendance. “ He looked really sharp and was a good feature of the party,” Basaraba said, noting Off the Wood’s products have been a big hit so far. “ I don’t know if everybody realizes they’re made out of wood at first glance, but as soon as they figure it out, they’re almost always like, ‘ Wow, are these ever cool — especially the ones made out of skateboard material.’ ” It’s go, go, go for Ndayubashe these days; he still clocks eight hours a day at his regular job, but evenings and weekends are reserved for Off the Wood. Last Saturday, he flew to Edmonton to promote his line of products to store owners in that city. He hopes to have his ties and glasses in shops and boutiques from coast to coast within a year. That said, his goal remains the same — to use some of the profits from Off the Wood to assist people in Burundi. “ Sometimes, you see places on TV where there is a lot of poverty, but you might not care as much because you’ve never been there. But it’s different when you have an emotional attachment to a place... I can’t sit around and wait for somebody else to do it.” david. sanderson@ freepress. mb. ca BY ALISON GILLMOR Doc a testament to power of the movies D_ 12_ Sep- 05- 15_ FF_ 01. indd D12 9/ 3/ 15 6: 44: 48 PM

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