Ebertfest 2008

April 23-27
Virginia Theatre
203 Park Ave.
Champaign, Illinois

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:

7:00 pm
Hamlet (1996)

1:00 pm
Delirious (2006)
Guest: Tom DiCillo, director

4:00 pm
Yes (2004)
Guests (tentative): Sally Potter, director, Christopher Sheppard, producer

8:30 pm
Canvas (2006)
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)

11:30 am

Shotgun Stories (2007)
Guest: Jeff Nichols, director

2:30 pm
Underworld (1927)
Music: The Alloy Orchestra

7:00 pm
The Real Dirt on Farmer John (2005)
Guests: John Peterson, documentary subject, Taggart Siegel, director

10:00 pm
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)
Guest: Paul Schrader, director

11:00 am

Hulk (2003)
Guest: Ang Lee, director

3:00 pm
The Band’s Visit (2007)
Guest: Eran Kolirin, director

7:30 pm
Housekeeping (1987)
Guests: Bill Forsyth, director, Christine Lahti, cast

11:00 pm
The Cell (2000)
Guest: Tarsem Singh, director


Romance & Cigarettes (2005)
Guests: Aida Turturro, cast, Tricia Brouk, choreographer

For more information, go to the Ebertfest Web site.

  • Pat spoke:
    29th/03/2008 to 3:28 pm

    I would really like to make it to Champaign for at least some of these films. I’m particularly interested in Romance and Cigarettes, which I missed earlier this year. Any idea of how easy or hard it is to come by tickets for individual screening?

  • Fox spoke:
    30th/03/2008 to 2:04 am

    I’m envious that you get to go to this!
    I can’t wait to read your report on it… assuming you’re doing one. 🙂

  • Marilyn spoke:
    30th/03/2008 to 3:04 pm

    Hi Pat. I have never bought a pass because I usually can only go on weekends. They require you to stand in a line before the film starts to buy tickets (which is stupid and a departure from the way they used to do it). But I’ve always gotten tickets to the shows I want. That said, Hulk could be hard to get unless it’s the free children’s show. It’s in the right slot to be, so that makes it very likely you could see the movie for nothing and listen to Ang Lee talk about it.
    Fox – I always write up the films I see and pay special attention to the guest comments. I might only go for Saturday and Sunday, though.

  • Liz spoke:
    30th/03/2008 to 9:01 pm

    What an interesting lineup. If you get to see Romance & Cigarettes I’d be particularly curious what you think of it, since it seems to be a polarizing movie. I feel so alone in being lukewarm on it.

  • Jonathan Lapper spoke:
    31st/03/2008 to 7:27 am

    I envy you. I’d love to attend one of these with Roger Ebert hosting the events. And I noticed Underworld listed in the program. How wild since it was one of the mystery stills I just did. And accompanied by a full orchestra no less. I wish I could attend that. But since I can’t I will simply experience it vicariously through your posts.

  • Rick Olson spoke:
    31st/03/2008 to 8:25 am

    Marilyn, I’m insanely jealous you get to go. I’ll be looking for your reviews.
    Pat, Romance and Cigarettes is on DVD … it’s really pretty weird, but worth a look

  • Marilyn spoke:
    31st/03/2008 to 8:36 am

    Liz – I’ve read so many different things about Romance and Cigarettes. I feel that if Roger programmed it, I’m probably going to like it. I think I’ve only not liked one of his selections for the fest (Lovers on a Bridge).
    Jonathan – I probably am not going to see Underworld at this festival because I can’t take the day off of work. BTW, the Alloy Orchestra isn’t really. They’re just three guys. But they’re very popular scorers of silent films.
    Rick – I look forward to writing them. Ebertfest is so much fun every year. I did four reviews of last year’s fest: Sadie Thompson, Come Early Morning, Man of Flowers, and Stroszek.

  • Jonathan Lapper spoke:
    31st/03/2008 to 12:56 pm

    BTW, the Alloy Orchestra isn’t really. They’re just three guys.
    Now it seems even cooler. Dammit.

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