203 Park Ave.
As a veteran of almost every Ebertfest ever held, I can tell you that this is an event not to be missed. The films are always a revelation and the guests, oh, the guests, are not to be beat. Last year, I got to watch Paul Cox pit his morbid outlook on life with Werner Herzog’s mordant sense of humor. In previous years, I’ve been privileged to listen to conversations between Roger and John Sayles and Maggie Renzi, Bertrand Tavernier, Miranda July, Ayesha Dharkar (star of The Terrorist), Tian Ming-Wu (director of King of Masks), and so many more that only the likes of Roger Ebert could entice to come to a college town in the middle of nowhere.
Champaign is a pleasant town with some nice restaurants and shops and the beautiful Virginia Theatre, looking better every year as restoration work continues, largely through the financial windfall that is Ebertfest. What’s nice about this festival is how laid back it is. Despite its growing popularity, the filmgoers are still mainly townspeople and university faculty and students. The free children’s show every year brings a new generation of film lovers in in droves. Roger and his wife Chaz are very approachable and friendly, even last year, when Roger, struck dumb by a tracheostomy tube, still had a smile, a thumbs up, and an autograph for all comers to his La-Z-Boy lounger in the back of the theatre.
I’ve been waiting weeks for the schedule to come out, and now here it is:
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 23
THURSDAY, APRIL 24
Guest: Tom DiCillo, director
Guests (tentative): Sally Potter, director, Christopher Sheppard, producer
preceded by Citizen Cohl: The Untold Story (2006), a short film tribute to Dusty Cohl
Guests: Joey Pantoliano, cast, Adam Hammel, producer, Lucy Engibarian-Hammel, producer, Joseph Greco, director, Barry Avrich, director (Citizen Cohl)
FRIDAY, APRIL 25
Shotgun Stories (2007)
Guest: Jeff Nichols, director
Music: The Alloy Orchestra
The Real Dirt on Farmer John (2005)
Guests: John Peterson, documentary subject, Taggart Siegel, director
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)
Guest: Paul Schrader, director
SATURDAY, APRIL 26
Guest: Ang Lee, director
The Band’s Visit (2007)
Guest: Eran Kolirin, director
Guests: Bill Forsyth, director, Christine Lahti, cast
The Cell (2000)
Guest: Tarsem Singh, director
SUNDAY, APRIL 27
Romance & Cigarettes (2005)
Guests: Aida Turturro, cast, Tricia Brouk, choreographer
For more information, go to the Ebertfest Web site.