Bright Eyes Pictures Presents:
A film by Brett Ingram with music by Shark Quest
Growing up in a home that was an emotionally challenging environment, Kuhler’s escapism into his art provided sanctuary. He completely envelopes himself into his newly constructed reality by creating an elaborate history, culture, and even language for his country.
He explains that “Rocaterrania is not a utopia, it is not a fairyland or dreamland… what it is… it directly tells the story of my life, and my struggle to become who I am today. I am Rocaterrania, the troubles within me and everything else… the events in my life.”
As the documentary progresses this theme is reinforced frequently. The story line is intertwined with interviews of Kuhler talking about early family life, his experiences in school, his career. Kuhler was always something of an outsider, too skinny, too socially awkward, unable or unwilling to conform to the expectations of social pressures of mid-century rural America. His mother was emotionally unstable, his father too demanding. Classmates relentlessly targeted him as an object of ridicule.
Whenever Kuhler reaches a turning point in his life, whenever the atmosphere or circumstances of family life evolve, circumstances in Rocaterrania parallel the changes as well. When family life gets too restrictive and authoritarian, a revolution takes place in Rocaterrania. When life in college gets overwhelming, social conditions in Rocaterrania fluctuate accordingly. When Kuhler starts his career as a scientific illustrator, Rocaterrania’s society slowly develops into a more enlightened culture. Political upheaval and a societal restructuring in his imaginary country helped restore an emotional balance for Kuhler to cope with the uncomfortable reality of not fitting in amongst his peers.
A seemingly endless stream of illustrations, sketches, and paintings accompanied by Kuhler’s detailed narrative history of Rocaterrania reveals a complex alternate reality. Kuhler’s obsession with his secret world is densely packed with highly nuanced elements in the details of every aspect of daily life. He shows charts of his written language that he developed, portraits of the political leaders, architecture plans, landscape illustrations. Over the course of the last seven decades, Kuhler has generated more illustrations of cultural artifacts and documented more of the social and political history of Rocaterrania than some real countries have.
Rocaterrania is a visually detailed and intense film experience about the artistic vision and the inner mechanisms of human psychology that drive Renaldo Kuhler to create, to evolve, to “become the man that I always wanted to be.”
Rocaterrania is available at the Grand Rapids Public Library on dvd.