Review: True Wolf


When Koani’s partner Indy died, she, like many of us, lost interest in life. Indy was a friendly dog, but Koani was a wolf. Their Montana owners were Wild Sentries, members of a non-profit dedicated to public education about the wildlife in the northern Rockies. “True Wolf” is the story of a community divided about the reintroduction of wolves into our American forests as well as a tale about the challenges of raising a wolf in a home.

“Shoot, shovel and shut up. We want the wolves out.” Protestors worry that their livestock would be killed and their lives threatened if wolves were allowed back into the Rockies.

On the other hand, Bruce Weide, a Wild Sentry and owner of Koani and Indy, remarks that it is a myth to believe that even when the last wolf is killed the livestock will be safe.

Never giving counter arguments, Weide simply says, “If you think there’s a need for change on some issue – probably the least effective way to go about that change is to say that they’re wrong.”

While the views against wolf re-introduction into places like Yellowstone National Park are explicitly stated in this film, we don’t hear they are wrong or that their arguments are false. Instead the viewer is simply introduced to Bruce and his partner, Pat Tucker, and shown their story about raising a wolf for 16 years in captivity.

It is really not until her partner dies that I was finally struck with the recognition of the web of life and the similarities in nature’s diversity. I feel the wolf’s grief and finally our connection.

Throughout the marvelous footage of Koani and Indy at wildlife presentations, romping through the woods, and being petted by their owners, we are aware that Bruce and Pat are wondering about the role they are playing in keeping a wild animal in captivity.

What adaptations do they make? What modifications and sacrifices do they introduce to their home and their routine? What about travel to NYC when they help promote an Imax film on Koani?

Will Koani attack children in the audience? Will she attack other dogs? Will she seek to kill for herself the 700 pounds of fresh kill she needs each year to survive?

What are Koani’s crucial needs and are they the same as ours?

Last, and the one Bruce and Pat wrestle with the most and can never answer, is keeping Koani as an ambassador for education about wolve worth the sacrifice they imposed on her?

There are many questions that are answered, but some are not. Whitehair has left the argument about wolf re-introduction to you. As a matter of fact, not one justification for re-introducing wolves into national parks is ever stated. But what is nurtured is the creation of a curious mind that is encouraged to find out the facts and toss the question around independently.

The film opens with Joseph Campbell’s quote, “Myths are the instinctive nest that humans build to protect their young.” Weide explains that “Little Red Riding Hood” in not about eradicating lascivious, human-eating wolves but passing down important cultural values. Little Red was supposed to obey her mother, stay on the path and not be seduced by questionable men. Likewise, the story of the little boy calling out wolf was not about predation but about telling the truth.

Opening and closing with a little wolf footprint in snow crystals, this film examines the life of a wolf in terms of similarities and differences. It always recognizes that the subject is a wolf in captivity – not one in the wild. But perhaps in getting to know one wolf we might be open to more investigation and dialogue about their place in the web of life and perhaps, as a human hand enters the frame, a relationship on life’s path.

opens in NYC on Aug. 17 at Cinema Village
with encounter with Atka, a wolf ambassador
from The Wolf Conservation Center after the 7:35 p.m. screening.
Members of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition and
film director Rob Whitehair will also be attending to answer questions.

Film Credits

Tree and Sky Media Arts Presentation
Cast: Koani, Indy, Bruce Weide and Pat Tucker
Produced, directed and edited by Rob Whitehair
Edit Facility: The Wandering Buddha
Producer: Pam Voth
Executive Producers: Bruce Weide and Chris Palmer
Written by Rob Whitehair and Bruce Weide
Original Music: Cody Westheimer
Runtime: 76 minutes
Released: Aug. 17, 2012, and showing: NYC Premiere – 8-17; San Luis Obispo, CA – The Palm Theater – Sep 7-13; Bar Harbor, ME – Reel Pizza Cinerama – Sep 7-10; “MIFF at the Seacoast;” Newburyport, MA – Newburyport Screening Room – Sep 7-13; Santa Fe, NM – The Screen – Sep 28 – Oct 4; Sarasota, FL – Cine-World Film Festival – Nov 9-18

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3 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Dre #

    I would like to see this. It sounds pretty good.

  2. TJ #

    Weide and Tucker traveled the country with Koani as “an ambassador for her species” to help people confront their fears of wolves through her. But the film’s discussion of wolf mythology meanders and lacks force. And Koani, so enthralling in home-video footage, seems diminished in her meet-and-greets. It’s hard to get close to a wild creature, and “True Wolf” doesn’t always manage, either.

  3. Bev #

    TJ – your comments are right on.