Ebertfest Continues Roger’s Legacy

  • 01 of 08

    Ebertfest Continues Roger’s Legacy

    Virginia Theater
    ••• All of the films at Ebertfest are shown in the Virginia Theater in downtown Champaign. Marcia Frost

     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 nears twenty years 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

    Roger Ebert
    ••• A statue of Robert Ebert, with his thumbs up symbol, is in front of the Virginia Theater. Marcia Frost

     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 celebrated the area with 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

    Chaz Ebert
    ••• Chaz Ebert continues her late husband's legacy by hosting Ebertfest. Marcia Frost

     The Ebertfest Film Festival takes place for five 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

    The Virginia Theater

    Virginia Theater
    ••• The Virginia Theater is a historic landmark in downtown Champaign. Marcia Frost

     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 has been undergoing 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. The Beach Boys, Chicago, and Melissa Etheridge are a few of the more recently scheduled entertainers.

    A portion of the Ebertfest profits goes toward the renovating of the Virginia Theater. 

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  • 05 of 08

    Choosing Films

    Roger Ebert
    ••• A clip of Roger Ebert talking about the film is shown whenever possible. Marcia Frost

     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

    Ebertfest
    ••• Chaz Ebert giving "thumbs up" statues to Paul Weitz and Andrew Miano, who made "Grandma.". Marcia Frost

     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, writer Paul x, actor Jason Segal, and 2016 Oscar winner Brie Larson.

    Award-winning writer and director Paul Weitz, who is currently working on the Amazon hit “Mozart in the Jungle,” was on hand for the screening of Grandma. Lily Tomlin was nominated for a Golden Globe for the film and Weitz and producer Andrew Miano talked about how the role was created for Tomlin, who didn’t shy away from the controversial subject.

    “It was so much the fabric of Lily’s performance,” Weitz told the audience. 

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  • 07 of 08

    Change Makers

    Kasi Lemmons
    ••• Kasi Lemmons wrote and directed "Eve's Bayou. Marcia Frost

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

    Although writer and director Kaci 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

    Grandma
    ••• Panel discussions with writers, directors, actors, and producers are an important part of Ebertfest. Marcia Frost

     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.

    For more information on Ebertfest, visit the official website.