When I asked Vanna Fut, the subject of the recent biopic “Raskal Love,” to introduce himself, he simply said: “birth name Vanna Fut, and the street calls me Big Lazy.”
Raskal Love is one of the main attractions showing at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival this weekend.
The film follows the dramatic life of this Seattle-based breakdancer. A refugee whose family fled the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia when he was a baby, Fut describes growing up as a backyard kid in Pomona, California doing backflips on discarded mattresses.
He was initiated into the neighborhood Cambodian gang Tiny Raskal Gang at age eleven. But that perilous path changed course when Fut started breakdancing, eventually ending up with the Massive Monkees, the b-boy crew that went on to win the 2004 World B-Boy Championships in London.
Now Fut is trying to use his fame to positively influence teens growing up in the same kind of tough neighborhoods he did.
After emailing and chatting with Fut, I got a chance to figure out what he’s all about — I never thought that a world renowned breakdancer and former gang member would be so nice and down to chill:
When and why did you start breakdancing?
During my teenage times, I didn’t have many things to do. I was lucky dancing was introduced to me in the neighborhood, along with gangs, late wall taggings, playing marbles and building ramps to skateboard jump-offs. But dancing was exciting [and] stay[ed] glued in my veins. Things just went on to the cardboards later on to different spins.
Why do you choose breakdancing among all these dances, or even sports you can do? What does it give you?
All that I witness from the corner streets of my view was dancing, school dance battles and home parties. Breakdancing was from fun to those who did a better move. Breakdancing had taught me a lot without a teacher, how to use your own mind to create something amazing to showcase what you have designed in an arts body forum. And after all the wild circle dance battles, a winner moves on and shakes hand with their defeats with fun great peace. That’s the love of hip-hop culture.
What music/ artist/ breakdancer do you appreciate most? Or, who is your idol?
There’s a piece of music called “The Mexican.” It always makes me want to jump in a dancing circle over [and over] again. The vibe to that music is hyper. I used to mostly listen to the Michael Jackson’s music, which will always be the first to bring out the moves.
What are you doing for the Tiny Raskal Gang?
At the moment, I visit and see how everyone is doing and they all do the same for me. I’m just around [to give] advice, but they’re all grown-ups and sometimes ask if I can take care of myself first.
How does it feel to be famous now?
It’s a new great feeling to network, social and connect with everyone now. Meeting more and more nice people makes me love my life. Great people are all over out here and it’s much better then to be ignored, I’m proud to be leaving behind my Fut prints with every step I make.
What’s your advice for young people growing up in tough neighborhoods?
Don’t do drugs, you have to stay focus.
What are your goals for the future?
I actually have a lot to say about it. One day I wouldn’t mind relocating my family somewhere peaceful and far. But if I am still here, I would love to be featured in some films, write more short scripts, direct music videos, etc.
While the path from gang life to breakdancing success might sound smooth, Fut says no one realizes what happened behind the scenes.
When he started breakdancing, even his fellow gang members judged him and spread rumors about him.
“I’ve faced dirty snake friends who just laughed at my injury falls, my pains, my near death cases, and when you stand back up to walk, the rumors come back to whisper…” Fut didn’t want to go into details. “But thankfully, I love all battles.”
At least his mother has always been supportive.
“My mother told me when she pressed the play button to Michael Jackson’s music, as I was match dancing, she used to do Thai traditional dancing to her beats herself,” Fut said.
Like mother, like son.
Raskal Love screens Saturday, Feb 8 at 1 p.m. at the Ark Lodge Cinema in Columbia City. Fut and the movie director Bryon Q will be at the theater for post screen panel. Tickets are $13 each, students and seniors tickets are $10.