Misha and the Wolves is a story involving a Belgian immigrant and a Massachusetts publisher. It’s an intriguing tale about an intriguing tale that isn’t what it seems. There’s deception on a grand scale and international backlash that reverberates for years.
Misha Defonseca was a Jewish child in Belgium when the German occupation began. Her parents were arrested and deported by the Nazis in 1941. She was smuggled into a foster home, where she had to live as a ‘hidden child’. She was alone and she was missing her parents badly. When she discovered they’d been deported to Germany, she looked on a map. She decided they were close enough for her to find. She was just seven years old when she began her journey across Europe. To avoid capture, she travelled through woodland, which was where a pack of wolves adopted her as their own. She lived with her four-legged friends and made secret trips into the Warsaw Ghetto. Somehow she survived. When the war ended, she left the forest and found her way back home. Her parents were never seen or heard of again.
Jane Daniels was the owner of a publishing company when she heard Misha tell her tale in a Massachusetts synagogue. It was her who persuaded Misha to write a book about her life. Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years was published in 1997.
International buyers came knocking on Jane’s door. When she contacted Oprah’s Book Club, they invited her onto their show. They also arranged a publicity shoot in a North American wolf sanctuary, where Misha fed a wolf by hand. When the wolf got onto his back legs and took Misha’s head in his jaw, the entire crew held their breath. They exhaled when it became clear it was an act of affection. For anyone who doubted Misha’s story, this was a fait accompli.
Then the first shoe dropped.
For no given reason, Misha stopped taking Jane’s calls and refused to appear on Oprah’s show. Then a summons arrived. Jane was to attend a Boston court to answer charges of copyright theft and withholding royalties. Evidence was submitted but the jury took the side of the Holocaust victim. The publisher was found guilty on all counts and ordered to pay damages of $22 million.
With literally nothing to lose, Jane went through everything she had that was connected to Misha. She didn’t even know what she was looking for when she came across a bank slip that didn’t make sense. Which is when the second shoe dropped. Then the third. The filmmaker keeps them falling right until the very end. .
Directed by Sam Hobkinson
Produced by APT Film and Television (UK)
Premiered at Sundance Film Festival January 31st, 2021