The Madness is Spreading!

When I first started attending and working with TIFF back in 2002, Midnight Madness was pretty much known as the darkened corner of the Festival, the miscreant programme that featured the types of films that the other programmes wouldn’t touch.

Since then, the monster factory has brought us directors like Johnnie To, who graced the Midnight Madness screen in 2000 and 2001 with The Mission and Full Time Killer respectively. This year, To’s Office is a part of the prestigious Special Presentations programme, and this action-musical hybrid set among cubicles in an office definitely brings a little Midnight flavour with it.

With Midnight curator Colin Geddes taking the reins of the Vanguard programme, many Midnight directors jump back and forth between the two with ease - exposing their often gory and extreme visions to an audience that may not be so inclined to stay up to the wee hours. Filmmakers like Alex De La Iglesia (My Great Night, 2015) and Takeshi Miike (Over Your Dead Body, 2014), both Midnight Madness mainstays, have had films in Vanguard in the last couple of years - along with Fabrice Du Welz, Mark Hartley and others.

One of the biggest ‘graduations’ from the Midnight programme this year has to be Sarah Silverman, whose 2005 comedy Jesus Is Magic wowed the Ryerson audience for her big TIFF debut.  Since then, Silverman has become an unlikely supporting and leading actor in more serious fare--namely, 2011’s Take This Waltz and this year’s I Smile Back.

And of course, Ben Wheatley, whose organic move through TIFF started with Midnight Madness in 2011 with Kill List, continued through Vanguard in 2012 with Sightseers, brings High Rise to the Platform programme this year. Platform is a juried programme that aims to spotlight and award films from lesser-known directors (though he's already well-known to us Midnighters)--similar to the prizes awarded in Cannes or Berlin. High Rise will compete with 11 other films for the Platform award, and recognition and a big bag of cash that comes with it.

These examples are hardly the first filmmakers that have broken out from the Midnight programme - remember that Midnight Madness boasts early work from Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, 1993), Peter Jackson (Braindead, 1992), and so many others. But there is a palpable tectonic shift in the sorts of films that are being programmed elsewhere in the Festival, with sci-fi, horror, and the downright surreal taking high-profile spots in the more mainstream programmes. It also means that the filmmakers you're watching this year at Midnight Madness might one day be a Platform nominee, or maybe even a People's Choice winner. I, for, one, hope that the not-yet-announced A Talking Isopod?! will someday take TIFF's top prize.

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