Above: The Demanders: Jana Monji, Roger Ebert, Jim Emerson, Steven Boone, Odie Henderson, Donald Liebenson. In absentia: Jeff Shannon, Kevin B. Lee. Reflected in TV: Wael Khairy. Steak 'n Shake shake courtesy of Michal Oleszczyk, who also took this photo with my camera.
Every once in a while circumstances have conspired to keep me from attending Ebertfest, but the main thing that draws me back are the people I get to see and watch movies with while I'm there, from David Bordwell (with whom I rode from Madison to Champaign-Urbana) to Festival Co-Conspirator Joan Cohl to The Man Himself, Roger Ebert, whose presence animates the event, even when he isn't in the on-stage spotlight.
For me, there were no major discoveries or revelations this year -- like, say, Jeff Nichols' "Shotgun Stories" or Yôjirô Takita's "Departures" or the astounding, mind-blowing 70mm print of Jacques Tati's "PlayTime" in past Ebertfests -- but that almost seemed beside the point. (Though I highly recommend a snappy, endlessly inventive low-budget picture called "Citizen Kane." It's terrific!)
I'm happiest hanging around, in the Virginia Theatre or the "green room" (where participants gather for lunch and dinner) with, to name but a few, some of The Demanders (a small group of writers I work with who cover VOD) or the Far-Flung Correspondents, who write about movies from their home bases all over the world: Egypt, Brazil, Turkey, South Korea... even Chicago.