Ebertfest Continues Roger Ebert’s Legacy

  • 01 of 08

    Ebertfest Continues Roger’s Legacy

    Movie Critic Roger Ebert and his wife, Chaz Ebert, gesture as he receives the 2,288th Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
    Frazer Harrison/Staff/Getty Images

    Roger Ebert founded the Ebertfest Film Festival in 1999. Ebert was a native of Urbana and went to school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He felt the towns would welcome films that didn’t originally receive the recognition they should have.

    Ebert was correct as the festival has occurred in front of full audiences each April. Since his death in 2013, his wife Chaz has continued to act as the Ebertfest host.

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  • 02 of 08

    About Roger Ebert

    A statue of film critic Roger Ebert giving his trademark "thumbs up" gesture outside the Virginia Theater in Champaign, IL
    Bordwall/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

    Roger Ebert was born in Urbana, Illinois, in 1942. He is best known as half of the Siskel & Ebert critic duo, who would give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to films every week on their television show. After Gene Siskel’s death, the show continued with Richard Roeper as Ebert & Roeper.

    Ebert was also the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years. He earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1975, was an honorary member of the Directors Guild of America, and the only film critic to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    In addition to Ebertfest, Roger and Chaz began an endowment at the University of Illinois College of Media for the Roger Ebert Program in Film Studies.

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  • 03 of 08

    The Festival

    Spike Lee and Chaz Ebert attend the 'Do The Right Thing' screening during the Roger Ebert's Film Festival at Virginia Theatre in Champaign,
    Timothy Hiatt/Contributor/Getty Images

    The Ebertfest Film Festival takes place for several days in the middle of April each year. During that time, all the films are shown at the Virginia Theater in downtown Champaign. At the same time, seminars, workshops, and panel discussions take place just a few miles away at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

    Each film is introduced by Chaz Ebert and at least one person involved in the making of the movie. After the film, everyone is available for a question-and-answer period.

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  • 04 of 08

    Virginia Theater

    Richard Roeper, Matt Zoller Seitz, Andy Davis, and Scott Mantz attend the Roger Ebert Film Festival at Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois.
    Timothy Hiatt/Stringer/Getty Images

    The Virginia Theater, located on Park Avenue in Champaign, Illinois, has been open since 1921. During that time, it has housed films, ballets, concerts, and even vaudeville entertainment. The theater, which underwent a major renovation, can hold 1,500 people.

    Performers at the Virginia Theater include past legends such as Charlie Chaplin, Will Rogers, and the Marx Brothers. Kansas, REO Speedwagon, and Martina McBride are a few of the more recently scheduled entertainers.

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  • 05 of 08

    Choosing Films

    Nate Kohn, Rita Coburn Whack, and Chaz Ebert attend day four of Ebertfest on April 12, 2019 in Champaign, Illinois.
    Timothy Hiatt/Stringer/Getty Images

    Unlike most film festivals, the movies shown at Ebertfest are not chosen from entries. Roger Ebert used to be in charge of picking the 12 films for the festival. Chaz Ebert and Nate Kohn, director of the festival, now pick the movies. Films are often chosen from previous reviews done by Ebert and all are based on the criteria Roger Ebert established for Ebertfest.

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  • 06 of 08

    Guest Speakers

    Director Kogonada speaks at the Roger Ebert Film Festival at Virginia Theatre on April 20, 2018 in Champaign, Illinois.
    Timothy Hiatt/Stringer/Getty Images

    One of the highlights of Ebertfest each year is the presence of actors, directors, writers, composers, and producers talking about the films they made. Among those who have come to Champaign to present their films are director Guillermo del Toro, critic Gil Robertson, actress Nancy Allen, actor Jason Segal, and Oscar winner Brie Larson.

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  • 07 of 08

    Change Makers

    Kasi Lemmons and Chaz Ebert attend the 2016 Ebertfest in Champaign,
    Timothy Hiatt/Stringer/Getty Images

    Ebertfest has taken on difficult subjects, always embracing films that made the audience continue to ponder after they left the theater. "Eve's Bayou," which is a Director’s Cut Award winner starring Samuel L. Jackson, Debbie Morgan, and Diahann Carroll, is a perfect example.

    Although writer and director Kasi Lemmons told the Ebertfest explained that it wasn’t autobiographical, she did admit it was based on “my family’s dynamics.”

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  • 08 of 08

    Ebertfest and Champaign-Urbana

    Roger Ebert with his wife Chaz attend the 37th Ann. Publicists Guild Awards in 2000.
    Brenda Chase/Stringer/Getty Images

    In addition to the contribution of Roger and now Chaz Ebert, Ebertfest takes shape thanks to the work of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Media. Roger Ebert was a journalism graduate from the university.