The Toronto International Film Festival is a haven for film lovers. Directors, actors, and fans alike flock to the 10 day festival (running Sept 5-15) for some of the newest and most exciting films the industry has to offer. The Midnight Madness program is a genre fan’s dream, serving innovative and transgressive cinematic experiences with something to delight every interest.
The section’s programmer, Peter Kuplowsky — who has been at the helm since 2017 — has established a career championing genre cinema and outsider art at various international film festivals, including Toronto After Dark and Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.
Kuplowsky has also worked as a producer on a number of short and feature films, including Manborg, The Interior, The Void, the Z is for Zygote segment in The ABCs of Death: Part 2, and the short film adaptation of Dave Eggers short story Your Mother and I.
I had the chance to speak with Peter about this year’s Midnight Madness lineup, the community of genre cinema, and his top recommendations for TIFF 2019.
Kelly McNeely: I’m excited for this year’s Midnight Madness, you’ve got a great lineup!
Peter Kuplowsky: Thank you so much, I’m excited too! I was a little self-conscious before the announcement just because of how many unknown entities there are in this lineup. But I’ve been really appreciative of the feedback so far; people seem really excited to discover some new voices.
KM: I was really excited and surprised to see Crazy World on there, because I know Who Killed Captain Alex is one of those films that not everyone knows about, but it’s such a phenomenal contribution.
PK: Yeah! I mean it’s one of the themes that kind of emerged by accident, but then when I saw the content was there I wanted to really try and do something with this idea of community directors that made themselves on screen — as you can see in Blood Quantum, The Vigil, and Crazy World.
With Who Killed Captain Alex, a big part of why I wanted to include one of their films in the lineup is I’m so interested in the idea of original filmmaking, filmmakers, and film systems that exist outside of mainstream infrastructures and institutions. And the idea that this is a community of filmmakers and an audience that are constantly making content for each other and entertaining each other. Recently, that content has now been contextualized for the western world and it’s developing an audience.
I find that so remarkable, and I think it’s a testament to the openness of genre audiences and the flexibility of imagination. The idea that you need all these resources to make a movie is a bit of a fallacy. Really you need enthusiasm, creativity, and personality. And that’s what these films have in spades.
The big hope – I can’t confirm it yet – but we’re in the process of ensuring that the filmmakers themselves are able to attend TIFF and that we actually have live narration for the world premiere of this international version of Crazy World, which would be so exciting.
I have never actually experienced a live narrated Ugandan action film, and I think that idea is really interesting. The tradition came from how their audience was watching American films, because they weren’t subtitled or dubbed, so they needed someone in the room to contextualize it. So the idea that now that their films are going out into the world, they decided to package them with a Ugandan interpreter to sort of contextualize its world too. I’m really looking forward to closing out the lineup with this kind of celebration of a cinema that doesn’t necessarily get as much attention as other quadrants.
KM: I didn’t know you were planning on doing the live narration, that’s so cool!
PK: And that’s something that I hope we can deliver on. The issue has really come down to getting the Visas approved, but we’re in that conversation process and, you know, every part of my body is crossed in hopes that that happens.
KM: On that note, what gets you really excited about a film?
PK: Genre film doesn’t have to be generic, and usually the best genre cinema are the ones that take the familiar formula but are injecting new variables into it. So for me, I’m always interested in seeing something new that I haven’t quite seen before, because the variables are so distinct. But even more simply — and this doesn’t even necessarily apply to movies for the Midnight Madness section — I always just wanna see decisions, and that sounds glib, but I find that sometimes there’s an arbitrariness to the pieces that go together in movies sometimes.
I wanna see a film where I really feel like I’m being guided — I don’t mean this like a single director, even, I mean that the alchemy of all the elements of the movie really feels like there’s not a piece out of place. Everything feels like it’s part of an aesthetic project. That’s something that personally always excites me.
In the Midnight Madness context, the things I look for are momentum and attitude, and something that I feel like is transgressive. It’s breaking a convention or a parameter that is expected. Because that, to me, is what constitutes the difference between a Midnight film and a regular genre film. That there’s this element to it that’s doing something new.
KM: Is there a film you wish you could have had for the lineup that you couldn’t get your hands on?
PK: I track so many films, sometimes years out from them ever being made, so there’s always stuff that it simply isn’t ready. A recent example is a movie that I’m now glad that I didn’t see and subsequently invite, because no one can see it. I was tracking The Hunt, but they were telling me that it wasn’t going to be ready because they were doing a lot of last-minute reshoots on the film, and now no one can see it.
Continue to page 2 for Peter’s TIFF recommendations!