Borat shuts down TIFF

Even before "it" happened, tonight's screening of Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazhakstan - or simply Borat to those in the know - would have been the single strangest Midnight Madness I had ever attended. A three hundred person rush line, a throng of people outside the Ryerson chanting "BORAT! BORAT! BORAT!", and Sacha Baron Cohen arriving on the red carpet in character... and riding a horse.

Then the projector broke.

Somehow, Borat's premiere at the Ryerson theatre tonight rivalled Death of a President for the most coveted ticket at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. But before the crowd could even really get warmed up, a mere fifteen or twenty minutes into the movie, the projector shut down.

The expected groans and cheers and good-natured ennui set in, but things buckled down and got weirder from there. Those of us in the balcony twigged to the sight of Michael Moore hustling up into the projection booth, immediately setting in motion a flurry of rumours that Moore was going to blow the doors wide open on any potential involvement in the technical mishap by the anti-Borat Kazhakstani government. Meanwhile, down below, Mysterion began entertaining the addled main-floor audience with his breed of card tricks.

A squad of experts was dispatched to the Elgin to break into the projection booth and bring back much-needed repair parts. Before long, Larry Charles - director of Borat and longtime Seinfeld maven - took the stage with Moore and began an anything-goes Q and A, one which rarely involved the film itself. Then Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes interviewed Borat himself, an interview in which Borat revealed the details behind his recent conviction in Europe for a sex crime performed upon a horse. And then Colin broke the really bad news: we were all going home.

An emergency second screening of Borat will be held at the Elgin at midnight on Friday... which gives all those Borat-crazed fans in the rush line another chance to catch the flick (and anyone with a ticket to tonight's screening a free pass to see those first twenty minutes again, hopefully attached to the rest of the film this time). Unfortunately, this will also mean choosing between Borat and Friday's Midnight Madness film, The Host, which looks excellent in its own right... and isn't being released domestically in just a few short weeks, which Borat is.

If tonight was any indication, TIFF '06 is going to go down in the history books.

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