Van Damme’s ‘JCVD’ to hit Toronto

Festival's Midnight Madness to feature film

Jean-Claude Van Damme starrer “JCVD” will launch Toronto’s popular Midnight Madness program.

Section programmer Colin Geddes called helmer Mabrouk El Mechri’s pic, in which the action thesp plays a downtrodden version of himself, “the best film I saw at Cannes this year.”

No longer a latenight ghetto, Midnight Madness has grown in the past few years to become the hot spot for the biz and one of the most prominent platforms to launch an adrenaline pic.

Geddes cites “Cabin Fever” (2003) as a case in point. “It was one of the biggest sales of the festival and was the last film screened at the festival to boot,” he said, adding, “The botched ‘Borat’ screening (in which the projector broke down) is now legendary and created an instant viral campaign.”

Midnight Madness has a reputation for offering new twists on old conventions.

“I though the bottom had dropped out of the zombie market, and I thought somewhere there has to be a new twist,” said Geddes, who gives American duo Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel’s “Deadgirl,” about a not-quite-dead teen, its world preem.

J.T. Petty’s “The Burrowers,” a horror spin on John Ford’s “The Searchers,” also world preems, as does Miguel Marti’s psychopath-with-a-fashion-sense thriller “Sexykiller.”

The program also features the international preems of Toshio Lee’s “Detroit Metal City,” based on the popular manga series and starring Gene Simmons, and Mark Hartley’s “Not Quite Hollywood,” a docu about Australian genre cinema heroes of the ’70s and ’80s.

Jon Hewitt’s teen crime caper “Acolytes” gets its North American preem, as does Franck Vestiel’s manga and vidgame-inspired thriller “Eden Log,” Pascal Laugier’s vengeance saga “Martyrs” and “Chocolate,” from Thai helmer Prachya Pinkaew, whose “Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior” was a fest breakout in 2003.

The Sprockets program of family fare boasts four world preems. They include “Bridge to Terabithia” helmer Gabor Csupo’s “The Secret of Moonacre,” based on fantasy children’s novel “The Little White Horse” and starring Ioan Gruffudd, Tim Curry, Natascha McElhone, Juliet Stevenson and Dakota Blue Richards.

Other kidpics include Marco Kreuzpaintner’s 17th century action-adventure “Krabat,” starring Daniel Bruhl; Jacques-Remy Girerd’s animated enviro-tale “Mia et le Migou”; and Thomas Borch Nielsen’s animated musical “Sunshine Barry & the Disco Worms.”

The fest’s avant-garde showcase Wavelengths will present six curated programs of international work at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Highlights include Jean-Marie Straub’s Cannes pic “Le Genou d’Artemide”; the latest installment of David Gatten’s celebrated “The Secret History of the Dividing Line” series; independent stalwart James Benning’s Berlinale 2008 stunner “RR”; and Jennifer Reeves’ retooled 2005 MOMA piece “When It Was Blue,” featuring music direction by Laurie Anderson.

The 33rd Toronto Film Festival runs Sept. 4-13.

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