Rukus premiere at SF Indie Fest (2/2/18) – a furry movie says Lights, Camera, Anthros!

by Patch O'Furr

RUKUS at the 20th annual SF Indie Fest

February 2, 7:00 PM / February 5, 9:15 PM

Roxie theater, 3117 16th Street, San Francisco

RSVP at Meetup to join the furmeet – 2nd showfest info

Rukus – a fiction/documentary hybrid by Brett Hanover

Birth of an indie furry movie scene

Videowolf’s documentary Fursonas [2016] was a landmark, even if it split watchers between love and hate. (Wag your tail if good movie making comes before “does it make the fandom look good?”) It wasn’t the first feature-length indie production by furries – that was the only-fandom-seen Bitter Lake [2011].  It wasn’t the first high quality movie that had them in it – that was the German arthouse gem Finsterworld [2013].  But it was a movie that broke through to more than only a “furry movie” by aiming for a thoughtful, critical look at subculture and identity. It just happened to be directed by and about furries. Now they don’t just follow behind mass media that many claim not to depend on. They also make it and play on bigger screens.

At roughly the same time, Zootopia [2016] was a huge event. Animation may be the holy grail for furriness on screen, but a behemoth budget from Disney is light years from the cottage industry where fandom gets its strength. Zootopia was merely a “furry” movie, as in, one whose directors won’t let you call it that. Journalist Joe Strike had a story about that in his book Furry Nation (another first for publishing in 2017.)

I was invited to a Zootopia press junket the week before the film premiered and was granted one-on-one time with Byron and his directing partner, Rich Moore. I immediately — and perhaps not too wisely — asked if the teaser was a “dog whistle” to the furry community. Howard deftly dodged my questions, and not long after the interview I received an email from my upset editor, who’d been contacted by an upset Disney PR person. – (Joe Strike, Furry Nation, p. 333)

This is about capital-F Furry. The kind that feeds itself, knows itself and doesn’t hide it. I’ve always wanted to see DIY furry creativity have a scene with film and video, like it does with art and costuming. I wrote about how cool it would be to have a Furry Film Fest. Of course, dance vids and music vids (and even web series) have done relatively well. In 2017 furry Youtubers rose on their own merits to silver Creator Award level (100,000 subscribers and up). But fandom originals are more based on costuming and performing than refining a voice in storytelling and directing. That’s where I want to see furries come out with a roar.

In 2016, Fursonas set the stage for it. Then Eric Risher, maker of the Furries short documentary, won a regional Emmy [edit: this was for other work of his]. Recently there was a short mockumentary that went in festivals, Mascot Fur Life [2017], but there hasn’t yet been another feature movie that catches the spark. I’m sniffing around for it.

The premiere at SF Indie Fest 

Brett Hanover is coming to the Roxie to present his 86 minute movie. Brett will be at both shows and hopes furries will come out in support.  That happened in 2016 for Frameline Film Fest – the largest/oldest festival for LGBT cinema. The festival enthusiastically welcomed furries and fursuiters to showings of both Videowolf’s and Eric Risher’s documentaries. It even brought us to the stage and let us promote local cons. That was right down the street from the Roxie. We had a wonderful event host nearby at Relay Raccoon’s apartment, and a busy downtown street for a fursuit walk and dinner. Let’s do it again and make it a night to remember! (RSVP on Meetup.)

Brett’s site describes Rukus:

Furries, filmmakers, kinksters, survivors. A fictionalized personal account of coming of age in Memphis at the turn of the century. This feature-length video project is based on work begun in collaboration with furry artist Rukus, left unfinished after his death in 2008.

SF Indiefest says:

A hybrid of documentary and fiction, Rukus is a queer coming of age story set in the liminal spaces of furry conventions, southern punk houses, and virtual worlds. Rukus is a 20-year-old furry artist, living with his boyfriend Sable in the suburbs of Orlando, Florida. In his sketchbooks, Rukus is constructing an imaginary universe – a sprawling graphic novel in which painful childhood memories are restaged as an epic fantasy. Brett is a 16-year-old filmmaker with OCD, working on a documentary about kinky subcultures in spite of his own anxiety. After an interview leads to an online friendship, their lives entwine in ways that push them into strange, unexplored territories.

Brett tells me:

I should say, the movie can be heavy at times – it deals with trauma, mental health, and suicide – but it is ultimately, in my opinion, hopeful, optimistic, and encouraging – it’s about survival and friendship. And sometimes it’s even funny. But, I just want to make sure that people know that even though it’s the premiere, and I am excited to have a party, it’s not a light movie. It is really cool to see my film put in context with other furry films, and it’s great that you are pointing forward to other possibilities for unapologetic furry indie film. I am getting so excited!!!

I have access to a screener copy but haven’t watched yet (review coming soon).  However I have long believed that someone needs to do a hybrid approach… Disney budgets don’t fund bold weird queer subculture, so how do you make a convincing fantasy world without even people in it? You can frame it as story-within-story directed with gonzo, surreal or stylish personal expression.

There’s a wikifur page for Rukus, the furry who inspired the movie. And I’m proud to be a favorite link at Brett Hanover’s site. There you’ll see continuing fascination and dedication to this awesome fandom thing. His work in progress gives confidence about knowing it from within. Can’t wait to see it.

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