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Sep 25, 2008

A night in the life of the Toronto Film Fest’s “Midnight Madness.”

By Rachel Fernandes

It’s around 11 a.m. on another hectic day of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, and the Sutton Place Hotel is crawling with journalists, publicists, filmmakers, actors, festival staff and movie fans. Welcome to the hub of TIFF ’08, a 32-year-old event that has evolved out of its original “Festival of Festivals” status (having previously showcased films from other top international festivals) into one of the most highly regarded and best-attended film festivals in the world.
Each year, between 300 and 400 films, most of which are either North American or world premieres, are shown on over almost two-dozen screens scattered throughout downtown Toronto. Hits like American Beauty, Sideways and Crash all premiered at TIFF, and the number of public and industry-affiliated attendees now exceeds 300,000.
However, despite the welcomed success of the TIFF marketplace, many have criticized the Festival’s rapid growth and attention to high-profile premieres for potentially dousing the spirit of the event and intimidating those that simply love to see films.

Wait Until Midnight
Amid the red carpets, celebrities and massive media blitz, Colin Geddes, a self-proclaimed professional geek and the programmer of TIFF’s crowd-pleasing “Midnight Madness” series, stands like a beacon of darkness in a sea of over-exposure.
But it’s a very welcome darkness, much akin to the soothing hush that falls over an audience when the theater lights dim.
The series was originally established as an outlet for the festival’s bastard children of misfit-genre films that might otherwise have been excluded from the overall showcase.
Now, “Midnight Madness” has become a sort of salvation for cult-movie lovers as well as for those who simply wish to get a taste for the festival from a not-so-highbrow perspective.
On this particular day, Geddes cheerfully makes his way down the hallway at the Sutton Place Grand Hotel, smiling and greeting anyone he recognizes.
You’d probably never guess that this is the festival’s head vampire—a man who staves off sleep during TIFF’s ten-day run in order to introduce and screen a different dark, bloody, hilarious, sexy and/or sleazy—in other words, fun—movie each night when the clock strikes midnight.
Every screening is followed by a Q&A session that goes on until…well, you get the idea.
Geddes is living proof of the power of the modern film programmer—the creative entity that is to a film festival what a curator is to a gallery exhibit. After first coming to TIFF to see a midnight movie at age 18 from a small town in Ontario, Canada, Geddes got hooked.
Over the course of the next few festivals, he evolved from fan to volunteer to his current position.
He has been lord of the dark arts for ten years now, a role that has him devotedly scouring the planet for deliciously lowbrow cinema—those tasty treats that manage to both entertain and overwhelm.
The fruits of Geddes’s labor are clearly evidenced by the enthusiastic throngs of attendees. Most of the screenings sell out, and many receive standing ovations, even at 2 in the morning.
Further evidence of his efforts can be seen in the widespread success many “Midnight Madness” selections—such as Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever, Korean art-horror flick, The Host, and a little movie called Borat—have enjoyed post-festival.
“Midnight Madness” has become a hub for fresh talent with around 87 percent of the films from the past five years having received a theatrical and/or DVD release.
Pretty good spoils for the festival’s bastard children.

Killer Pigs, Wombats and Drive-Ins
When we caught up with Geddes at the Sutton Place Hotel, he was accompanied by Mark Hartley, an affable young Australian director eagerly anticipating the “Midnight Madness”-hosted North American premiere of his film, Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of “Ozploitation.”
A splashy documentary extravaganza that celebrates several decades of overlooked Australian exploitation films, Not Quite Hollywood could almost be a manifesto for the series itself.
On the surface, the movie provides the mandatory “wow-factor” demanded of Geddes’s late-night fare: it’s a fast-paced, action-packed, sex-filled and highly infectious piece of filmmaking that the director prefers to call a “rock-umentary.”
But it’s the film’s insightful selection of subjects and thoughtful composition that provides it surprising weight. Not Quite Hollywood is a potpourri of B-movies, many of which remain virtually undiscovered in America.
Unless you are Quentin Tarantino (who is featured prominently throughout Not Quite Hollywood) or a very thorough collector of obscure VHS cassettes, chances are you missed Razorback (a raucous piece of a camp about a killer pig in the Australian Outback), Long Weekend (which focuses on a bickering couple who’s camping trip goes terribly wrong) and Dead-End Drive-In (about a drive-in turned into a deadly prison camp).
Not Quite Hollywood aims to rectify that situation.
At the premiere, Geddes’s exuberance for his latest discovery—the programmer heard about the film during its production stage and tracked it to completion—transfers directly to the audience.
It’s another packed house, and excitement fills the air as Hartley proudly introduces his treasure trove of trash from Down Under.
Spirits are high as the lights dim and the film rolls, and it’s not hard to understand why Geddes considers losing a little sleep a small price to pay to be lord of the Toronto night.

“It’s about love, guts, zombies, kung fu…but it’s also about the art.” Watch our video interview with Colin Geddes, curator of the “Midnight Madness” series.

The Wonderful Films of Oz
Check out the Ozploitation movies—classic, low-budget Australian films from the ’70s and ’80s—from this year’s “Midnight Madness.”

Mark Hartley, the writer and director of Not Quite Hollywood, talks about the Ozploitation genre in our video interview.

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nice job

gerry young
Oct 5, 2008

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