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JOSHUA

About The Production
"Do you ever feel weird about me? Your weird son?” --Joshua Kogan

Celebrated at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, where it garnered the Best Cinematography Award, as one of the smartest and most shockingly suspenseful psychological thrillers to hit the independent film world in years, JOSHUA presents the perfect New York couple in the perfect swank apartment with their two perfect children, a brilliant prodigy and a brand-new baby – and witnesses as they unravel into total chaos, seemingly driven to madness by the darkness within their 9 year-old son. Harrowingly real, rather than supernatural, the film's deft blend of dark comedy and obsessive fear left an indelible mark on audiences who couldn't shake the experience.

At its core, the film grabs onto the provocative notion of what happens to a family when their most basic belief in the goodness of the world falls out from under them – and runs with it. Not surprisingly, JOSHUA emerged from the mind of a director who has long been fascinated by the psychological machinations of fear. The film marks the feature debut of George Ratliff, but he earlier came to the fore with the acclaimed documentary HELL HOUSE, which explored the creation of a sinister and graphic haunted house, intended to scare sinners, by a Pentecostal Texas high school. On the heels of that film, Ratliff wanted to explore the idea of a terror and human vulnerability from a more everyday, naturalist point-of-view. The story of JOSHUA emerged when he and his writing partner, the novelist and short story writer David Gilbert, hit upon the scariest, most anxiety-filled, everyday activity they could think of: parenting. "Kids can be scary and the scariest kids are the ones who are smarter than you,” observes Ratliff.

It was Gilbert, in turn, who came up with the character of Joshua, who joins the brief but powerful list of complex child villains in thrillers that range from THE BAD SEED to THE EXORCIST, THE OMEN and THE SHINING. The idea of Joshua was so frightening, that Ratliff himself was almost scared away. "I was just starting to have kids myself and at first, I really wasn't sure I wanted to do a movie about an evil child,” Ratliff admits. Yet, as he and Gilbert further developed the story, it became more and more irresistible to take the story to unexpected places.

Explains Ratliff: "Part of what we tried to do with JOSHUA is to play against the genre and conventions of the indie family drama, so that it sort of feels like one in every scene -- yet the mood and events keep getting darker and darker and darker,” says the director. "I wanted audiences to be able to absolutely believe in this family, which drove us to figure out the inner psychology of every single character.”

Ratliff and Gilbert also began to look at the story from Joshua's POV, which turns the perspective of what a wealthy, contented family is supposed to be completely inside out – exposing the primal feelings of anxiety, obsession and paranoia that lie in the shadows of family relations. "I think for most people, the story would appear to begin in perfect harmony with this happy couple and their new baby, but for Joshua that view is skewed,” Ratliff observes. "What he sees is chaos – his mom seems crazy, his dad is a social climber, and he believes he has to try to create order.”

The result of telling the story of the Cairn family from inside their dizzying psychological descent was a superbly crafted, edge-of-your-seat screenplay which immediately drew the attention of producer Johnathan Dorfman and executive producer Temple Fennell at ATO Films. "It was a thumping good read that you couldn't put down until the last word,” Dorfman says of the screenplay for JOSHUA.

"What this story does, and what the character of Joshua does, is to tap into all of our innermost fears,” continues Dorfman

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