Champaign, Ill. (WCIA)

Roger Ebert’s Film Festival

Every festival is trying to put on the best program they can. Ebertfest likes to think that we show good movies but also movie that inspire empathy. That’s because Roger Ebert’s idea for this festival was that it would show films that allowed you to get to know someone a little different than yourself, bringing people closer together and building communities.

We’ve very careful to stick to that principle, but also to another principle that Roger had for his film selection. Ebertfest used to be called the overlooked film festival – and we’ve made a deliberate attempt to revive that concept for this festival.

The concept of overlooked is quite a broad one. To Roger that could mean a brilliant movie that didn’t get the attention it deserved from audiences or critics. Some of those movies become cult classics. For those who have seen them, they’re gens, but not enough people have seen them. This year we have Terry Zwigoff’s Ghostworld, which, you may not have seen but was one of Roger’s favorite movies.
Has the pandemic made it so more movies are overlooked or change the way people watch movies?
People havent been able to go to cinemas, and certainly not the art house cinemas that can show some of the best movies. So a lot of recent movies have been overlooked, or not looked at the way directors want them to be seen, on the big screen. So the festival this year is a chance to see great movies, like Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, not only on the big screen but in the B&W and 35mm print version that the director loved most of all. We’re also showing movies like French Exit and The White Tiger, both award winning movies that only went to streaming, but on the big screen with their directors right here with us to tell us all about their creative vision

After returning from a long-forced pause, it was important for the festival to return with a selection of films that had thoughtful films. But also films that were joyous. After returning from a long-forced pause, it was important for the festival to return with a selection of films that had thoughtful films. But also films that were joyous. We have comedies or documentaries about comedies (we will have Gilbert Gottfried joining us for example). But also many of our movies are tied in with music and we actually have three musical performances embedded in our schedule around the films. The alt-country artist Clem Snide will actually open the festival with a song he wrote called, “Roger Ebert” and we will show the movie Summer of Soul, with a performance of Soul music from local and Chicago musicians to follow. We also will have a movie called Soy Cubana, about a vocal group from Cuba, which we’ll follow up with musical performances from Afro-Caribean jazz ensemble – led by a Professor from the University of Illinois’ school of music.