The 16th Annual Ebert Film Festival is set to raise the curtain Wednesday, April 23rd and run through Sunday, April 27th at the historic and recently renovated Virginia Theatre in Champaign, IL. Over the course of five days, 12 films will be shown with filmmakers and/or actors in attendance to give insight to their film. “Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival,” now known as Ebertfest, was founded in 1999 by the renowned film critic Roger Ebert. Ebert, the former University of Illinois Journalism graduate and Pulitzer Prize winner, began the film festival to recognize films that he felt did not receive the accolades deserved during their original run. To this day, this concept continues with his widow, Chaz and Festival Director Nate Kohn, choosing the films to be shown.
With Mr. Ebert’s passing just a year ago, the hopes and intentions of Ebertfest will “keep true to Roger’s vision and philosophy,” according to Mary Susan Britt, Associate Festival Director. The festival will be “sharing fantastic films with a diverse international festival audience.” Ms. Britt also shared that although there are many highlights in this year’s festival, there are two that truly stand out: “Our festival is opening with LIFE ITSELF, a feature documentary based on Roger Ebert’s memoir; directed by Steve James.” In addition, “a statue of Mr. Ebert will be unveiled in front of the Virginia Theatre during the festival.”
What makes Ebertfest different and even standout among so many film festivals across the country is the fact that it does not give prizes nor does it have categories of competition. There is no distribution business that occurs as is typical at other festivals. This festival celebrates quality films and recognizes the filmmakers who made them. As Ms. Britt stated, “Filmmaker guests are treated like people, not like celebrities…we are very informal and relaxed.” Given the filmmaker lineup, that might be difficult to do! Brie Larson from SHORT TERM 12, Patton Oswalt from YOUNG ADULT, Oliver Stone from BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, and Spike Lee from DO THE RIGHT THING are several examples of the talent available to answer your questions after the screening. For a complete list of films and guests attending the festival, go to www.ebertfest.com.
The schedule of films this year is outstanding with WADJDA, LIFE ITSELF, A SIMPLE LIFE, and CAPOTE among many others. Having the directors on hand to share relevant and interesting background information absolutely enhances the film viewing experience. When will you ever have the opportunity to hear Oliver Stone talk about BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY again?
Ebertfest also holds Panel Discussions which address topics such as “Remembering Roger Ebert,” “The State & Future of Independent Film,” and “Filmmakers Workshop” as well as several more. Experts in the field of film will be on hand to discuss these topics and answer pertinent questions to enlighten listeners. Michael Barker, Co-President and Co-Founder of Sony Pictures Classics, C.O. “Doc” Erickson, an executive producer for major Hollywood films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW and VERTIGO, and Michael Phillips, film critic at the Chicago Tribune are a few of the foremost authorities sharing their wealth of knowledge with you, the audience.
Get your tickets now as these films do sell out! Individual tickets as well as festival passes are available. Prices range form $14 per film with student and senior pricing available. Panel discussions are free and open to the public. The Virginia Theatre is located in downtown Champaign close to many wonderful restaurants enabling you to make a day of it. With the quality of films showing, the talent in attendance, and the extra events taking place, this is going to be a film festival worthy of two thumbs up!