by Patch O'Furr
This unusual movie got 5 support articles before I was ready for a personal review. It’s hard to nail down, so the work got really labored over, but it deserves the effort. – Patch
Rukus was an artist from Florida who committed suicide in 2008 at age 23. He was a mercurial muse to his friends. Linear storytelling about him could make a sad movie, but Rukus comes from many directions. It overlaps documentary of him, with his boyfriend reflecting on their relationship, and his friendship with film maker Brett Hanover. His enigmatic presence weaves through Hanover’s personal life, which goes from trouble with OCD to finding completion in relationships and art. The life of Rukus becomes points on a trajectory of escape from pain.
The directing style frames lo-fi video with dramatized memories, daydreams and fiction from Rukus. They’re re-enacted by younger and older stand-ins for him, and voiced with animation. It’s one of those arty movies that doesn’t easily boil down to one commercial line, but it’s directed with purpose. When the pieces don’t fit together neatly, the negative space holds a chewy assortment of themes.
There’s repressed abuse, disconnection, and love outside of hetero norms. It touches on conflict with anti-gay religion in the Southern US, but it’s more involved with a setting in furry fandom. Furries have a loveably eccentric subculture of fans for talking-animal media that appears in fantasy art by Rukus, internet role-play, a hotel convention, and a stage play. Those feed the human connections in the movie. You also get to see a costumer called a “whore bear” and a moment of tender toes-in-nose contact that turns into crosswired love.
The movie is outstanding for merging fiction and documentary while drawing from a subculture rarely seen in any feature film. It premiered at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival, where furries came for group fursuiting (with full body costumes that make unique “fursonas”). That’s sort of like how Comic Con cosplayers emulate Hollywood superheroes, but those don’t keep their powers when the movie ends.
Rukus casts animal shadows behind misfits who play muses for each other, and delivers bittersweet satisfaction. You can see it now on rukusmovie.com.