Review: ‘Rocaterrania’

Septuagenarian scientific illustrator Renaldo Kuhler has had an imaginary world to escape to since childhood.

Septuagenarian scientific illustrator Renaldo Kuhler has had an imaginary world to escape to since childhood. Its elaboration via countless drawings, paintings and pretend history adds up to a vast, still-in-progress body of obsessive personal expression whose surface is colorfully scratched in “Rocaterrania.” Sophomore docu by Brett Ingram (his first was “Monster Road,” about claymationist George Bickford) reps an outsider-artist portrait with an outside chance of specialized release before tube/DVD shelf life.

Cutting a lanky, eccentric figure in his self-designed clothing, Kuhler is a garrulous fellow whose work — never glimpsed by the public until this 12-years-in-the-making document — recalls Henry Darger, whose bizarre, voluminous fantasy saga and artwork were examined in Jessica Yu’s “In the Realms of the Unreal.” Unlike Darger, Kuhler is still around (and somewhat willing) to explain it all. A difficult childhood and odd-duck adult isolation fostered the creation of Rocaterrania, a nation nestled between Canada and the U.S., Victoriana and futurism, utopia and political turmoil. Its odyssey from monarchy to dictatorship to democracy reflects his own life journey from oppression to proud nonconformism. Select archival materials abet Kuhler’s ramblings and fascinatingly detailed illustrations; result is a weird delight.

Rocaterrania

Production

A Bright Eyes Pictures production. Produced by Brett Ingram. Directed, edited by Brett Ingram.

Crew

Camera (color, DigiBeta), Ingram; music, Shark Quest. Reviewed at Cinequest Film Festival, San Jose, Calif., March 3, 2009. Running time: 74 MIN.

With

Renaldo Kuhler.
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