One of the most remarkable surprises at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival came from 24 year-old Josh Koury, who charged into the world of indie cinema with his debut feature documentary Standing by Yourself. Running just less than an hour, the emotionally shattering Standing by Yourself details the downward spiral of two teenage boys in a small upstate New York town who find themselves increasingly isolated from a hostile and dead-end environment and begin to experiment intensively with various forms of alcoholic and pharmaceutical releases.
Providing a power plant’s worth of visceral energy and raw sense of genuine horror which shames the prefabricated sub-genre of malcontent youth flicks churned out by Hollywood, Standing by Yourself offered a double shock to the pre-conceived notions of filmmaking in that (1) it was originally created as a senior thesis for Koury’s college studies at Pratt Institute and (2) the subjects of the film were the director’s younger brother Adam and a family friend, Josh Siegfried. Rarely has a student filmmaker created a work of such heartbreaking emotional power…and rarely has an artist opened his lens on the chaos and heartache of his own family’s woes.
As a new filmmaker, Koury has already provided intriguing glimpses into his mastery of the camera and his versatility in production. Prior to Standing by Yourself, he created a trio of intriguing shorts: “W****s are Expensive,” an utterly bizarre black-and-white experimental journey where unsmiling subjects allow the camera to roam across their faces and bodies while a demented kiddie birthday record pollutes the soundtrack; “Bullethead,” a loud comedy about a deranged desk jockey who takes his revenge on a crushing corporate world; and “Richard Shakes,” a moving 11-minute documentary which details Koury’s older brother Richard’s debilitating struggle to find physical and emotional peace while living with epilepsy.
As a filmmaker, Koury doesn’t so much push buttons as he pounds them, jolting the audience to pay undivided (almost hypnotized) attention to his various visions. When Koury’s films are in motion, you have no idea where they are headed and the final destination is literally a smack at the mind. Whether it is the tragic stare into the camera of the drug-imprisoned Josh Siegfried in “Standing by Yourself” or the lonely vision of the epileptic Richard limping with a cane through an empty bus station in “Richard Shakes,” or even the insane ultra-close-up of the spider web tattoo sported by one of the “W****s are Expensive” cast, Koury’s masterful use of camera, editing and soundtrack creates a devastating cinematic experience.
Standing by Yourself is being positioned for future festival playdates and is currently being reviewed by potential distributors for theatrical presentation. Film Threat caught up with Koury in his Brooklyn studio following his return from the Slamdance to discuss his unique approach to filmmaking…
Get the interview in part two of JOSH KOURY STANDS AND DELIVERS>>>