A few days ago, we posted the memories of MM Photographer Ian Goring, today we're sharing the first Midnight Madness screening of another MM Blogger who you don't hear from much around here, MM Interviewer, Videographer and Man On The Scene, Robert A. Mitchell. This was originally published on the 2008 Midnight Madness blog as, "The Genesis of a Midnight Madness Junkie, (a.k.a., The Night I Met Prachya Pinkaew)." ~The Editor
As a way of introducing myself, and also to take a little time to do a some reminiscing, I wanted to talk about my first Midnight Madness screening.
It was a Saturday, the second day of the 2003 film festival and the second year I was attending. I was set to watch two films that day. The first was Takeshi Kitano's latest film Zatoichi at the Elgin theater theater at the base of Yonge street followed by a screening of Alien with Sir Ridley Scott in attendence. That is already an amazing day of cinema. Little did I know what the night would bring. Suffice to say Zatoichi was amazing and I wasn't the only one who must've thought that because several days later the film would win the audience award.
Leaving the theater and stepping into the bright early September daylight I slowly wandered up Yonge street bopping in and out of stores looking at DVDs. My mind wandering, thinking of the amazing sword sequences I had just watched.
By five o'clock I found myself standing in what was supposed to be my second and last line up for a film that day. Perhaps because of kismet, the unifying field or just one of those things, the woman who stood directly in front of me had stood directly behind me hours earlier while I waited for Zatoichi.
We began to talk about many different films and she asked me if I would be going to Midnight Madness that night. I replied that I had heard of Midnight Madness but that I had never gone. She then informed me that there was a film playing that night entitled, Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior.
Since my teenaged years encompassed skateboarding, eating pizza and watching kung fu films every Saturday, I was always up for a good martial arts film, but, alas, I did not have a ticket. The woman informed me she was a volunteer and that she would use one of her vouchers and procure me a ticket. True to her words she came back from the box office with a ticket for Ong-Bak and what would become my first Midnight Madness film.
Oh yeah, the Alien reissue was amazing and, not only was Sir Ridley Scott in attendence, but Yaphet Kotto sat in the audience with us and watched the film ... but I digress.
Cut to INT.: The Uptown Theater Saturday night around 11PM.
With the usual energy that comes with a warm Saturday night, this particular night had the added excitement of a world premiere. The crowd had changed, they were younger and much more enthusiastic. Although it was a long day and I was fighting exhaustion, one could not not get caught up in the moment and feed off the energy that you were surrounded with.
We were finally seated in the amazing theater that was the Uptown 1 (see above photo (R.I.P)) and a man came onto the stage and introduced himself as "Colin Geddes, the Midnight Madness programmer" to a huge amount of applause and cheering. He then went on to relate a tale of seeing Ong-Bak at the buyers market at the Cannes film festival and that Luc Besson, the director of La Femme Nikita, had already bought the film.
Colin Geddes then introduced the director of the film, Prachya Pinkaew, who had almost not made the screening due to being held up by customs and had to resort to taking a cab from the airport to the theater to make the screening on time. In fact, he had had no time to stop off at the hotel to unpack his luggage. When Prachya stepped out and onto the stage you would never have known that a mere hour or so before he had been on a plane coming from the other side of the world.
With the introductions finished the house lights dimmed and the curtains were slowly drawn and little did we know what we were about to see. You could look in a thesaurus and no amount of adjectives could ever do Ong-Bak justice. The film was completely and utterly amazing. When the final credits rolled and lights came back on, sitting in that theater - which was now in the wee hours of Sunday morning - you knew you had just witnessed the emergence of a new talent unleashed upon the world. The star of the film Tony Jaa without a doubt would become the next big action star.
As Colin and Prachya came back onto the stage the crowd rose in a standing ovation and if you had ever been in the Uptown 1 you can attest to how many people that was.
After the Q&A I stumbled out of the theater and into the night, dizzy from the amazingness I had just watched. Wandering around the local neighbourhood I popped into a store and bought a chocolate milk, when the thought crossed my mind to double back to the theater and see if I could get a picture with the director.
Outside of the box office stood Colin and Prachya with a few other people. I approached them and asked if I could have a photo. Colin then snapped a picture at a crazy angle and the moment was captured. I'm the dork with the red beard standing beside one of the greatest action directors to emerge in the twenty first century.
I don't speak a word of Thai and I believe Prachya didn't speak much, if any, English. But, when I said to him that Ong-Bak was the best fighting film I had seen since Drunken Master II, a flicker of recognition passed through his eyes. We had bridged the language gap through action films.
When the house lights came back on that Sunday morning I immediately thought to myself how many times are you going to be in a world premiere audience and be able to say I was there the night the world was introduced to the next big thing. In an instant I was hooked and have been attending Midnight Madness ever since. This will mark my sixth year.
I also would like to thank that volunteer for taking me to my first Midnight Madness screening.