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TIFF14: Kevin Smith's 'Tusk' and audience fandom at Midnight Madness

Justin Long stars in Kevin Smith's film
Justin Long stars in Kevin Smith's film "Tusk," which premiered during the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness series.
Mark Fellman
Justin Long stars in Kevin Smith's film
Director Kevin Smith at the screening of his "Tusk" at the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness.
Ian Goring/TIFF

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When Kevin Smith premiered his new movie, "Tusk," in the Midnight Madness program of this year's  Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), it was a career high for the filmmaker. (No, that's not a pun on how Smith is promoting "Tusk" through tie-in strands of medicinal marijuana at L.A.'s Buds & Roses.)

Smith told The Frame producer Michelle Lanz that being part of the famed late-night section of TIFF for the first time in his career "...makes a fella feel good. I can still show 'em something new after two decades doing the job."

"Tusk" is a comedy-horror flick about a crass podcaster played by Justin Long (the guy who was the Mac in those Mac ads with John Hodgman as a PC). He gets captured by a sadistic old man who wants to turn him into a walrus. Yes, a walrus.

Colin Geddes, the programmer for TIFF's Midnight Madness section, told Lanz: "'Tusk' was so committed in its WTF-ness, that I had to pick it."


Since 1997, Geddes has been selecting the movies for the Midnight Madness program. Each year he gets hundreds of submissions, but can only choose 10 films. Of those that get screenings there's a chance a career could be made. That happened in 2002 when Eli Roth's "Cabin Fever" premiered and sparked a fierce bidding war among film buyers who wanted the distribution rights.  

But Geddes says that what he keeps foremost in his mind when programming Midnight Madness is the unique and committed audience.

"Out of all the films at the festival, the Midnight Madness audience I would say is the audience that is most excited to be there. At the same time they're also really smart and savvy cinephiles. We have directors and actors that [believe] no one's going to be around for a Q&A at 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock in the morning. [But] my audience always does me proud and always asks sharp and pertinent questions and they really surprise the talent." 

Toronto local Boyn Deen is one of those devoted audience members. Standing at the front of the line to see the Belgian slasher film, "Cub," Deen explained why she and her friends attend Midnight Madness:

"Some of these movies will never see another screen in North America. Some of the movies never get distribution in North America. You can't get it on DVD. So you want to see something weird and new? You do Midnight Madness."

To learn more about TIFF's Midnight Madness mayhem, check out their blog





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