Posts Tagged ‘documentary’

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Documentaries – The Film Snob Wife’s Genre Choice – Part 1: Pageant

June 7, 2010

I spent the weekend watching documentaries, and a couple of fiction films I’ll review in another post.  It started with several episodes of TLC’s new series, “Disappeared”, which is quite interesting.  Then Claude and I saw where Sundance on Demand had 2 documentaries:  Pageant (available now on Sundance on Demand) was sheer entertainment.  Highlighting the Miss Gay America pageant (at the time in its 34th year…34th!), it follows about 5 gay men as they prepare for the pageant, including one from Raleigh, NC.  This hometown man (at 42 years old) did an impression of Reba McEntire that left me speechless and had hair standing up on my arms.  He was so good that Reba McEntire hired him to play Reba in Reba’s own show.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  The men had to interview as men, in suits, which all of them are, simply gay men who can impersonate women, but don’t live their lives as women or want to be women.  The absence of the typical gay-subject matter movie catfighting was refreshing, as was the profile of these men, their real lives, and what drives them to be interested in the artistry that is involved in female impersonation.  Pageant was about the artistry – not the gayness or sexual relationships or transvestite or transgender issues.  It was really incredible entertainment, and showcased how these men put more work into their costuming, (none can have hormone shots or implants of any kind), the quality of their talent performances, (although most lip-sync) and their personalities and intelligence, much of which is absent from the actual Miss America pageant.  Pageant shows the artistic abilities of these people, and this really is art – body art and performance art.  I was fascinated and completely entertained.  I also feel this movie is viewable by most any person 12 and up, so I’d probably rate it a PG-13.  There is minor mention of sex and sexual relationships in the movie, and the introduction of the families and friends of these contestants and  the love and support they show is very family- and love-affirming.

Part 2 will be about Prodigal Sons.

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Reviewing Rocaterrania

March 19, 2010

Our geographic area is chock-full of filmmakers – some extraordinarily talented, some who are up-and-coming.  Claude and I were lucky to see a film by one of the filmmakers in the first class last evening.  The film was called Rocaterrania, by Brett Ingram.  I had read briefly about it in our local arts magazine, but didn’t know much about the subject matter.  It profiles Renaldo Kuhler, the former science illustrator for the North Carolina Museum of Natural History.  Brett filmed Mr. Kuhler over a period of ten years to make this film.  To say that Mr. Kuhler is wildly eccentric is quite the understatement, but to say that he is artistically gifted is even more of an understatement.

Kuhler’s father, Otto Kuhler, was a famous train designer during the time when trains were competing against airlines for customers, and train companies wanted a more streamlined, modern look.  In the elder Kuhler’s design, a great deal of Art Deco influence shows through.  Renaldo Kuhler revealed that his father was away from home for long periods of time, and when he was at home, had great disdain for his son.  He never mentions that his father sat down with him and taught him his artistic techniques, so I deduced that clearly genetics were at play.

To escape what Kuhler perceived as a very negative young life (his mother was mean, kids teased him incessantly), he invented an entirely new country, in his mind, called Rocaterrania.  Everything I will tell you about Rocaterrania exists solely in Kuhler’s own mind and in his staggering body of artwork.  Rocaterrania is said to be located on the New York/Canadian border, a separate country from the United States, and Rocaterrania bears strong similarities to Russia at the time of the Russian Revolution.  Kuhler has drawn citizen after citizen of this country; developed a language, an alphabet and a font, (which was used in the title sequence of Stan Brakhage’s Dog Star Man); developed a history, a governmental structure, and has developed and depicted all of this through his artwork.  His art ranges from landscapes to incredibly ornate architecture to his most prolific subject, people and costuming.  Even though the film clocks in at just under 80 minutes, the sheer volume of art, letters, alphabet, history, all written, drawn and painted by Kuhler is mind-boggling.  I felt as though he must have a form of graphomania, a condition I have never seen except in Crumb, where underground comic artist Robert Crumb’s brother Charles displays this in a tragic downward spiral.

The film opens with Kuhler showing the viewer a tiny female shrew’s skull, which he must draw for the Museum.  He looks through a microscope and draws, with exact precision.  Kuhler relates that the NC Museum of Natural History hired him without an interview based solely on his artwork.

Rocaterrania is available through Brett Ingram’s website, www.brettingram.org, and is truly a feast for the senses.  Anyone who thinks themselves an artist should definitely procure a copy post haste.  You will not believe your eyes.  I would say Rocaterrania is one of the most interesting documentaries I’ve ever seen.  Absolutely recommended and will become an oft-watched fixture on our DVD shelf.