Screenwriters Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver know how to get the party started and keep it lively.
Chaz Ebert, president of Ebert Digital and wife of iconic film critic Roger Ebert, has teamed up with the Chicago Urban League and Columbia College to give aspiring film critics a chance to review movies by or about African Americans, and to have their reviews posted on RogerEbert.com.
For the second year in a row, a select group of students participating in the Columbia Links journalism program and the Chicago Urban League’s youth initiatives will be eligible to submit reviews of films screened during the Urban League’s Black History Month Film Festival. This festival kicks off Tuesday, February 3rd, and its lineup includes four feature-length documentaries that deal with racial stereotypes (May B.'s "Afraid of Dark"), homeless teens (Kirsten Kelly and Anne de Mare's "The Homestretch"), the taboo of language (Todd Williams's "The 'N' Word: Divided We Stand") and the impact of gun violence on urban communities (Marquis Daisy's "Smile"). One film per week will be shown in February at Urban League headquarters, 4510 S. Michigan Ave., followed by a panel discussion with filmmakers and community leaders. Writers at RogerEbert.com will work with Columbia Links Executive Director Brenda Butler to edit reviews written by students.
Mrs. Ebert carries on the legacy she and her husband, Roger, committed to before he died to diversify the pool of film critics around the world. The Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation recently funded the second annual Indiewire/Sundance Institute Ebert Fellowship for Film Criticism that enabled four young critics to attend and cover the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Ebert will also conduct a panel that she developed to examine the future of film criticism in the digital age at the SXSW film conference in March in Austin, Texas.
“It’s been wonderful to watch the film world open up to embrace diverse filmmakers like Steve McQueen ('12 Years a Slave') and Ava DuVernay ('Selma'). But film criticism still remains largely a white male bastion,” said Chaz Ebert. “There is a generation of talented writers who deserve to have their voices heard. The Chicago Urban League Black History Month Film Festival is offering a great lineup of films that deal with topics of critical importance to African Americans. I look forward to reading reviews written by those who live closest to these issues.”
Established in 2012, the Chicago Urban League’s Black History Month Film Festival is presented annually as a forum to engage the community in honoring the achievements of African Americans, examining current community challenges and exploring strategic solutions that can lead to an empowered future.
“I believe that art has the power to educate and inspire the type of critical thinking and engagement that leads to lasting change,” said Andrea L. Zopp, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. “I want to thank Chaz Ebert for supporting our film festival and for opening the doors of opportunity to the next generation of film critics.”
"The 'N' Word: Divided We Stand" screens Tuesday, February 3rd, "Afraid of Dark" screens Thursday, February 12th, "Smile" screens Tuesday, February 17th and "The Homestretch" screens Tuesday, February 24th. All screenings are at 6pm.