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TIFF ’14: Programmer Colin Geddes Previews MIDNIGHT MADNESS

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Each year, programmer Colin Geddes storms the Toronto International Film Festival with what he calls “ten nights of cinematic insanity from around the world.” His Midnight Madness boasts over 20 years of taste making behind it, premiering highly anticipated films, introducing audiences to new voices and generally being the rowdiest of TIFF programs. The 2014 iteration of Midnight Madness sports buzzed titles like TUSK, [REC] 4 and IT FOLLOWS; possible discoveries CUB, giallo comedy THE EDITOR and BIG GAME; fest favorites THE GUEST and WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS; and more. As opening night, with Sion Sono’s TOKYO TRIBE, approaches, Fango spoke to Geddes about the films in store and process of putting it all together.

FANGORIA: Midnight Madness encompasses a lot.

COLIN GEDDES: The thing about Midnight Madness that sometimes people don’t quite realize is that it’s really a cross-section of wild and wacky films from around the world. Not exactly wild and wacky, but really fun, exciting insanity from around the world. So, it’s not just horror films; Horror, Action/Adventure, Black Comedy, Martial Arts. It’s a cross-section, so I like the fact that this year is a really well-rounded and well-represented international selection.

FANG: Do you ever feel resistance from people because some think it should only be horror?

GEDDES: Not from the audience, no. The audience knows what it is. Sometimes it’s misconstrued that it’s just horror. Sometimes, I think directors are surprised to learn that it’s not just ten nights of horror films, but ten nights of cinematic insanity from around the world. So, what I’m alluding to is that it makes the selection very competitive. I’m looking at so many genres. I’m looking at stuff all over the globe.

FANG: It seems like you have ten slots to fit in international cinema and things that are highly anticipated, but also films people are discovering and films you just like that have already played other festivals, like WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS.

GEDDES: That’s one of the things. There’s also a misconception about how the festival is premiere-driven. That’s part of it—we all like to be first to the block with a film—but I’m also programming for the audience. I was looking at the schedule and realized no one likes to have their premiere at the end of the film festival. I feel that that film [SHADOWS] on the last Friday of the festival is going to be such a breath of fresh air. The audience is going to eat it up.

FANG: Something like [REC] 4 is on everyone’s radar. When do you begin the conversation to secure it for the festival?

GEDDES: I’ve been talking with the producers and Filmax since last year. So, as soon as it went into production, I was aware of it and I communicated, “Hey, I’m interested in seeing it.” The jury is out until I see the film, really. I never commit to anything sight unseen, because that can be just disappointment for everyone involved. So, by May, they were already looking at their post-production schedule and making sure they would be able to get it to me in time. I only saw it maybe three or four weeks ago [Ed. Note: This conversation took place in late July], and even then when they got it to me, they were barely able to get a version to me with English subtitles.

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[REC] 4: APOCALYPSE

FANG: So, some of it is very down to the wire for you?

GEDDES: Oh yeah, the selection of TUSK (pictured top)—Kevin Smith personally flew up with the Blu-ray. No audience had seen it. He came in, said “Here’s my film. Watch it. I’m going to leave right now.” So yeah, we see things often times in versions that aren’t complete. Maybe sound mixing and color correction will be off, so I’ve got to fill in a lot of gaps on some of the projects.

FANG: One of the biggest curiosities is something like CUB.

GEDDES: The great thing about CUB is it’s not the first Belgian film in Midnight Madness—I think the first Belgian film in Midnight Madness was MAN BITES DOG—but this is the first Flemish language film in Midnight Madness. It’s a first time director, young Belgian director [Jonas Govearts]. The exciting thing about this is no one knows what to expect. And it’s a really beautiful horror film which also has a slasher undercurrent to it. An emotionally troubled boy scout goes off to a camp, sees a feral child living in the forest and no one believes him. But there’s something worse than the feral child living in the forest.

FANG: What about IT FOLLOWS, which was highly acclaimed out of Cannes?

GEDDES: That’s another one. It played in Cannes, and there was lots of buzz around it, but then it’s just kind of died down. It’s going to come back again. IT FOLLOWS is really refreshing. It’s a new and different spin in horror. It’s about a sexually transmitted haunting. That’s essentially what it is, but there’s a really strong voice. It’s got the same lead actress as THE GUEST and the other connection, the composer Steve Moore who did THE GUEST, also did the score for CUB.

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IT FOLLOWS

FANG: Midnight Madness appropriately opens with Sion Sono, master of cinematic insanity.

GEDDES: His film WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? was the winner of the Midnight Madness Audience Award last year, so what better film to open our program with than his new insane vision. It’s a Japanese yakuza hip-hop musical. It’s a cross between WEST SIDE STORY and a Bruce Lee film and SCARFACE. It’s so batshit crazy. It’s also one of his biggest—it’s the film with the biggest scope. He’s created this massive underground world on a Japanese backlot that his characters just run through. It’s definitely different.

FANG: Kevin Smith is a polarizing filmmaker. How do you think TUSK is going to play?

GEDDES: In many ways, that’s one of the reasons I picked it. I went into the film with preconceptions. Everything was shattered. This film is a reinvention of Kevin Smith. It’s going to introduce him to a new generation of audience members who know nothing about the CLERKS mythology. It’s also a really smart and clever horror story. It’s got elements of Lovecraft in it. It is unflinching and totally dedicated in its drive and vision of utter weirdness.

FANG: To round out the slate, you have BIG GAME. Is that another that will surprise us?

GEDDES: Oh yeah. This film harkens to those Amblin Entertainment, kid power adventure films like GOONIES. A 13 year-old Finnish boy in the middle of a wilderness hunting quest having to save the President of the United States from terrorists. Not a lot of people know about it, not a lot of people are aware of the director [Jalmari Helander] even though RARE EXPORTS is one of the best anti-Christmas films ever. This is very much a Finnish film in its sensibilities. And the supporting cast is really ridiculous.

FANG: And you’re also celebrating cinematic madness this year with Mark Hartley’s ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, which chronicles the audacity of Cannon Films.

GEDDES: This is a good example of how raw I see the films. I’ve yet to see the final version of this film. I’ve seen the locked interviews and the locked structure. I haven’t seen any of the interstitial animation that he has that links the segments. That’s where it’s going to totally kick, because that’s what he did in MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED and NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD. So, I’ve only seen the raw information and not the spectacle that Mark’s going to bring to it and I’m really looking forward to that.

FANG: Now people know you from Midnight Madness, but you’re very involved with the fest itself.

GEDDES: I’m one of many. We all have our various specialties, but I have kind of built a reputation of being a driving force for innovative genre films.

FANG: Are you then involved in Vanguard?

GEDDES: Yes, the Vanguard is very much my kind of side project. I’m the curator of that. What that means is I have films within that section, and I liaise with the other programmers to kind of pinpoint certain films and figure out whether or not they would fit into the definition of Vanguard, which is basically the meeting point between arthouse and genre; films that are dark, dangerous, edgy and sexy. If an audience has grown up on Midnight Madness, this is the next level that they graduate to.

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GOODNIGHT MOMMY

FANG: That has an unreal selection this year. ALLELUIA is an exciting title, for sure. CALVAIRE and VINYAN are such original pieces of work.

GEDDES: Yep, this is another director who shows no compromise in what he wants to bring to the screen. This is a director who should be making more films and should be better recognized.

FANG: Are your main picks in Vanguard what we think they might be, then?

GEDDES: It’s a mix, because I didn’t select the Takashi Miike film. That was picked by Giovanna Fulvi, who’s our Asian programmer. It’s a very much a return to themes that he addressed in AUDITION. It’s very much that kind of film. My picks within Vanguard are SPRING, ALLELUIA, LUNA, HYENA and GOODNIGHT MOMMY. That one’s so creepy. It’s going to be a real surprise.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs September 4th-14th. For more on the festival, visit its official site and keep an eye on Fango over the next ten days. 

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About the author
Samuel Zimmerman

Fangoria.com Managing Editor Samuel Zimmerman has been at FANGORIA since 2009, where fresh out of the Purchase College Cinema Studies program, he began as an editorial assistant. Since, he’s honed both his writing and karaoke skills and been trusted with the responsibility of jury duty at Austin’s incredible Fantastic Fest. Zimmerman lives in and hails from The Bronx, New York where his pants are too tight and he’ll watch anything with witches.

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