I had the privilege to meet Ronaldo Kuhler on my visit to Raleigh, NC to see the Annie Hooper collection (see earlier blog). A screening of the film, Rocaterrania, was scheduled for showing at the Gregg Museum of Art and Design one evening in August. I was looking forward to meeting the man who created this alternative world.
When I arrived, Renaldo was sitting in a wheelchair, visiting with guests in the exhibit room. I introduced myself and he responded with, “Nice teeth!” I’m not sure if Miss Manners has any advice on how to reply to this greeting. Does one say, “You, too!” or “I’ll tell my dentist!” or … what? I simply thanked him and complimented him on the exhibit. When it was time to view the film, he sat next to me and we had a pleasant chat before the film started. I was curious to know what this man was “really” like and, in particular, how deeply he identified with the residents of Rocaterrania. (Read: did he live in this world or that?)
Renaldo was very interested to learn that I am from Canada; the country of Rocaterrania straddles the border between the northern USA and Canada, somewhere around Ontario. He had questions about the Canadian political scene, and we discussed politics for a short while. (He is not happy about the current government in the USA.) Surprisingly, he is reasonably well-informed about Canada, something that doesn’t happen often in the southern States. Renaldo hadn’t seen the film for a couple of years, and was delighted to see himself on screen. He laughed at the amusing things he said, and confirmed (out loud) random statements he made on film. He nudged me when he got to the part about the location of Rocaterrania, and I felt rather proud that Canada had allowed his country to co-exist with mine.
One of the highlights of the evening was having dinner later with Renaldo and the film-makers. Renaldo was in fine spirits, and downed more glasses of Canadian whiskey than I could count. He patiently answered all of my questions about Rocaterrania (there are very few cars; it is a democracy, etc.), posed for many photographs, sang me Rocaterrania’s national anthem, and commented several times on the shorts that our waitress was wearing (all shorts are sexy – I guess that’s why he wears them).
Several things stay with me:
I asked him what it felt like to be famous, and he said he enjoyed it with dignity and humility. And his father would not believe it if he were alive.
I asked him if he was the character “Peekle” in Rocaterrania. He stated, “No. I am Rocaterrania. His stories help him make sense of his life. For example, the nicest landlady he ever had shows up as a kind and loving character in Rocaterrania. The people who were unkind to him in the past meet their fate in his own country, where he makes the rules and controls their destiny.
Renaldo has found an in genious way to make sense of his own life. It is not so weird or incomprehensible. It is rather sobering.
More photos of Renaldo Kuhler and scenes from Rocaterrania can be found on Brett Ingram’s website: Bright Eye Pictures.