In Focus

Wicked Queer docs express themselves

“Fursonas,” by Dominic Rodriguez, is the “furry” subculture.
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
“Fursonas,” by Dominic Rodriguez, is the “furry” subculture.

The truth will set you free. So too will dressing up as a 6-foot-tall raccoon or lip-synching hit songs by a pop chanteuse and wearing a silver outfit topped by a star-shaped crown.

That’s the suggestion of two documentaries in the 32nd Boston Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Film Festival (now known by the less cumbersome sobriquet, “Wicked Queer”), which kicks off Thursday and runs through April 10. By pretending to be someone (or something), perhaps you can discover, and express, who you really are.

Zhenya Tsoi and his partner Maxim, the subjects of Matvey Troshinkin’s fly-on-the-wall documentary “Let Me Just Be” (screens April 3 at 12:30 p.m. at the Museum of Fine Arts), would scarcely warrant a second glance here in the west. Zhenya works as a drag performer parodying pop stars and lip-synching their songs, and the bearish, long-suffering Maxim drives a bus. Unfortunately they live in Moscow, in a country that Maxim labels the worst place in the world to be gay.


Surprisingly, not much of their day-to-day lives directly comes into contact with the officially endorsed widespread homophobia. But it lingers off-screen as a potential threat. When Zhenya returns home after doing his shows or going to a party, he has panic attacks. He’s relieved when he can take the bus driven by his physically imposing boyfriend.

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Of more immediate concern, though, are the other everyday miseries of Russian life – low wages, high prices, trying to find a bigger place to live.

And Zhenya’s act. He performs on YouTube and live on stage. When he rehearses or films in their claustrophobic apartment, Maxim helps out. Zhenya is a diva, and Maxim is a very patient man.

When the show finally goes on, it is a tacky triumph. In one scene, Zhenya performs before a scant audience of dementia patients at an insane asylum. The situation seems ripe for laughter, until a babushka who was probably a girl during the Great Patriotic War dances joyously in the aisle.

In “Let Me Just Be,” Zhenya has more troubles with jealous competing performers than with homophobes, and such internal strife also occurs in Dominic Rodriguez’s delightful, deceptively subtle “Fursonas” (screens Saturday at 9 p.m. at the Paramount Center at Emerson). It is a look into the “furry” subculture, in which people dress up as their own animal creation.


The film opens with what looks like an evacuation drill at Disney World. Hundreds of human-sized woodland creatures and other critters hang around the lobby of a hotel, wave at gawkers, play with children, and dance in kick lines.

It’s the 2012 Anthrocon in Pittsburgh, a gathering of those who have established furry personas complete with elaborate costumes, a Web presence, and a fan base. Anthrocon CEO and self-appointed spokesperson Samuel Conway tells a TV reporter, “Everybody loves costumes! Everybody loves animals.”

But do some love them too much? Rodriguez employs his own ebullient persona to uncover not so much the erotic element in the subculture as the measures that image-conscious Conway employs to rein it in.

“Fursonas” might look cute, but it has bite.

Peter Keough can be reached at