Young Chicago Filmmaker Yony Leyser Premieres His Burroughs Documentary at Slamdance Film Festival

If you don’t know the name YONY LEYSER yet, you will soon! This young filmmaker is on his way!

What started as a fascination with one of the pioneers of the alternative-beat generation, Chicago native Yony Leyser began a film that was at first, just a William S. Burroughs documentary but by the end of the project, the Burroughs estate and Leyser himself realized he was creating the Burroughs documentary.

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within will be premiere opening night of  the SlamdanceFilm Festival  January 22nd at 5:30 pm in Park City  Utah, and then again on January 27th at 7:30. Gus Van Sant will be at the screening.

After being kicked out of film school  in  Los  Angeles, Yony moved to Kansas. “I knew Burroughs had lived in Lawrence, Kansas, where my sister lived. So, I moved there 2003 and got a job at the KU newspaper. I wrote a big article for the paper about the history of counter culture called, “From Beatnik to Anarchist: Radical Eruption in Lawrence.” And in it I talked about Burroughs moving to town in the 80’s. His estate got hold of it, and I kind of befriended the estate, and brought up the idea of making a documentary. At first they were like, “Sure, kid. Be another one of the 100 people that think they’re going to the one to make a documentary about Burroughs.”

I just started, and I interviewed his friends that were still in Lawrence and then they started introducing me to other people. They introduced me to a beat poet by the name of Charles Plymell in upstate New York, who introduced me to Sonic Youth, who introduced me…On and on, and that’s how I got all the interviews. And doing this with no money, I just had a camera, puts you in some pretty interesting situations.

It’s been a lot more fun doing it this way, but now I have a professional post production house and I showed the Burroughs’ estate a rough cut of it about a year ago, and they were really shocked how far I’d gotten, and that’s when they become completely supportive. And I moved back here to Chicago to finish it, linking up with Bullet Proof Films.Bullet Proof Films.

William Seward Burroughs II was an American novelist, essayist, social critic, painter and spoken word performer. Much of Burroughs’s work is semi-autobiographical, drawn from his experiences as an opiate addict, a condition that marked the last fifty years of his life. A primary member of the Beat Generation, he was an avant-garde author who affected popular culture as well as literature.

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within is a feature-length independent documentary that  features never before seen footage of William S. Burroughs, as well as exclusive interviews with his closest friends and colleagues including John Waters, Genesis P-Orridge, Laurie Anderson, Peter Weller, David Cronenberg,
Iggy Pop, Gus Van Sant, Sonic Youth, Anne Waldman, George Condo, Hal Willner, James Grauerholz, Amiri Baraka, Jello Biafra, V. Vale, David Ohle, Wayne Propst, Dr. William Ayers, Diane DiPrima, Donovan, Dean Ripa (the world’s
largest poisonous snake collector), and many others, with narration by actor Peter Weller, and soundtrack by Sonic Youth.

The film investigates the life of legendary author and American icon.  Born the heir of the Burroughs’ adding machine estate, he struggled throughout his life with addiction, control systems and self. He was
forced to deal with the tragedy of killing his wife and the repercussions of neglecting his son. His novel, Naked Lunch, was one of the last books to be banned by the U.S. government. Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer testified on behalf of the book. The courts eventually overturned their decision in 1966, ruling that the book had important social
value. It remains one of the most recognized literary works of the 20th century.

In the 1970’s, he  began to associate with New York cultural players such as Andy Warhol, John Giorno, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, and Susan Sontag, frequently entertaining them at his “Bunker”.

In the  late 1980s, Burroughs had become a counterculture figure and collaborated with performers ranging from Bill Laswell’s Material and Laurie Anderson to Throbbing Gristle, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and Ministry, and in Gus Van Sant’s 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy, playing a character based on a short story he published in Exterminator!, “the “Priest” they called him”.

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within 

is the first and only  posthumous documentary about this legendary figure.


A note from  Yony –

The goal at the Slamdance Film Festival is to connect with a distributor that will release the film in theaters and on DVD, exposing the odd and beautiful world of Burroughs to the public. Slamdance runs concurrently with its big brother, Sundance, and is our best shot to do this.


The expenses associated with putting a film in a festival are substantial — we have to hire a publicist, cover travel costs, print posters, convert the film to HD, and pay for final footage rights. Our credit cards are maxed out, our checking accounts empty. Regardless, we want to make this happen.

Make a donation at KICKSTER and  become part of this filmmaking history project!

YONY LEYSER on FaceBook            Burroughs The Movie

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