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Pratt graduates create new Underground Film Fest in just six months

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Three 20-something Pratt Institute grads have decided that although there are a lot of film festivals out there, there are a lot more young, talented filmmakers who aren’t getting exposure.

So they’ve created a new film festival, the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival (BUFF), to give their peers a shot.

In just six months, Josh Koury, 25, Cris Moris, 23, and Myles Kane, 23, created BUFF and received more than 600 submissions, both domestic and foreign, for their film festival, which will take place Oct. 10-13 in DUMBO. Out of those submissions, the festival founders have selected 80 films, 69 of which are premieres, from 10 countries. The films run the gamut from film to video to animation to computer-generated mixed-media work. Most are video shorts.

They will be screened in a 4,200-square-foot space at 1 Main St. at Water Street. The space will accommodate a 120-seat screening room for the programs and a space for featured filmmakers, festivalgoers and industry professionals to mix and mingle.

"We’re making everything look good and feel as good as possible," said Koury, the festival’s program director. "It’s not a privileged festival. We want people to come and stay, not just show up for their screening or their friend’s screening. It’s more than a film festival, it’s a community that’s being built.

"We have a lot of heart, just not a big budget," said Koury. "When you come, you’ll feel the founders are there and are running the show. There’s no hierarchy. It’s based on vision and dedication, and that’s what’s going to make it happen - into the future as well."

Koury has a lot of empathy for struggling filmmakers, because he is one himself. He graduated from Pratt two years ago with a degree in film and video arts. His 57-minute documentary, "Standing by Yourself," about a "kid growing up in upstate New York," did the festival circuit last year.

Koury likens BUFF to the New York Underground Film Festival and Slamdance.

"In the beginning, we were told, ’There are too many film festivals out there,’" said Koury. "But our point of view is there are too many films not being seen. We’re trying to showcase new works from new artists and not regurgitate the same festival films."

Koury has also sought out advice from the 5-year-old Brooklyn International Film Festival, run by Marco Ursino.

"We’ve contacted them and they’re so helpful to us. We are two completely different festivals. There’s room for all of us. They started the same [low budget] way we did, and now they’re doing quite well," said Koury.

"We love New York Underground and Brooklyn International, and we’re connected with them," said Koury. "And we believe there’s a need for a fresh viewpoint, and that’s what we’re trying to do."

Koury defines underground cinema as "making something out of nothing," which also defines his non-profit festival operating on volunteer labor and their miniscule submission fee. Their free-spirited programming reflects that we’ve-got-nothing-to-lose attitude.

The festival opens on Oct. 10 at 8 pm with a program of short films titled, "You’re Going to Die!" The festival also has the world premiere of Steven Strauss’ "A.B.E. (Anorexic Boy/Ballerina Extraordin­aire)" at 7 pm on Oct. 11.

On Oct. 12 at 2 pm, Rainer Frimmel’s "Notes from the Basement" chronicles a middle-aged, Viennese bachelor’s tour of his apartment.

At 9 pm, on the same day, there will be a program of shorts titled "Potty Talk." (The films have irresistible summaries such as this one for "Jacob’s Breakup," part of the "Potty Talk" program: "This film’s star pisses in the face of convention. That is, if convention is wholly represented by Katie Couric. If this doesn’t whet your appetite, come see him bust his a- doing his own stunts. Quite a treasure.")

The scatological series is balanced by more intellectual fare on Oct. 13, at 2:30 pm, called "Deconstruc­ting cinema: The work of Ichiro Sueoka."

The festival closes on Oct. 13, at 8 pm, with "The Daddy of Rock ’n’ Roll," a Canadian documentary by filmmaker Daniel Bitton about Wesley Willis, a schizophrenic rock star and accidental genius. (For a complete schedule of the programs and parties, visit www.brooklynunderground.org on the Web.)

Koury said the festival features 14 filmmakers from Brooklyn, too.

"We chose Brooklyn," said Koury, "because we lived here, went to school here and we’re proud to represent Brooklyn."


The Brooklyn Underground Film Festival takes place Oct. 10-13 at 1 Main St. at Water Street in DUMBO. Opening night’s program, "You are Going to Die!" begins at 8 pm. Each program is $6 and festival passes are $45. For a complete schedule of films and parties, visit www.brooklynunderground.org on the Web or call (718) 857-7879.

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