SXSW 2018: Rukus
I’ve sat through very few movies more painful to watch than Rukus. After an excruciating 86 minutes, I’ve learned next to nothing about what this film is supposedly about. I’m no more enlightened about furry communities, or queer relationships, or even the man that the film is named after, Rukus. By the film’s end the only things I learned about him were that he was semi-involved with a furry convention, for which he wrote fan-fiction, and that he took his own life not that long ago, a fact that is tastelessly hidden from the viewer until the end of the film. His story is rarely checked in on and never fleshed out and feels used for the cheap emotional twist ending and to endear us towards the film’s director, who forces himself into the starring position, with poorly written and acted dialogue.
Yes, written and acted; Rukus tests the limits of what a documentary is, by being almost entirely built of reenactments and so called ‘interviews’ that are either fully scripted or clearly predetermined. Lines are forced out, never feeling like natural conversation, by non-actors. It all feels like a small-town community theater play. The people that are there are either not trying or trying too hard. If that weren’t enough, it’s almost impossible to feel a connection to anybody because the dialogue is so robotic. Giant leaps of logic are taken to push out bad expositional dialogue. Somehow, even with all the scripting and unnecessary forethought, no story is found.
The director, Brett Hanover, is stealthily made the focus of the film. But just like Rukus, I could never grow attached to him. The dialogue seems made to protect him. His friends are all insufferable. They list off their insecurities so that Brett can come in and say that they’re great just the way they are. They have a clearly written line that seems to dance around a topic, but he’s there to open them up and get them to speak truthfully. Honestly, watching Rukus feels like watching Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, only much less fun. An insecure person has poured their soul onto the screen and surrounded themselves with people that are bad to them or just bad in an effort to make themselves look better by comparison. It’s even complete with a bizarre sex scene. I felt dirty watching Rukus, and I don’t think that anybody else should watch it. Not for their sake, but because it feels like something that was never meant for public eyes.