We are thrilled to announce the amazing guests scheduled to attend Ebertfest 2018, running Wednesday, April 18th, through Sunday, April 22nd, in Champaign, Illinois. Here is the first of two posts compiling the bios of each filmmaker and special guest who will be joining us onstage for Q&As after each screening (click here for Part Two). Look forward to seeing all of you next week!—Chaz Ebert
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18
7pm "The Fugitive"
Born and raised in Chicago, Andrew Davis started out his work in motion pictures as an assistant cameraman to renowned cinematographer and director Haskell Wexler on "Medium Cool." He then became a director of photography on numerous award winning television commercials and documentaries, including fifteen studio and independent features.
He made his directorial debut in 1978 with the critically acclaimed independent musical "Stony Island," which he also co-wrote and produced. After that he moved into the director’s chair full-time on "Code of Silence," "Above the Law," and "Under Siege." It was in 1993 that Davis directed the Academy Award nominated box-office hit, "The Fugitive," starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones – who earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, while the film earned seven Academy Award nominations. "A Perfect Murder" and "Chain Reaction" followed, leading to his directing and producing "Holes," Louis Sachar’s children’s novel starring Shia Labeouf, Patricia Arquette and Sigourney Weaver, then in 2007 the Disney/Touchstone feature film "The Guardian" starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher. He collaborated in 2013 on Haskell Wexler’s documentary "Four Days in Chicago."
Presently, Davis is developing several projects through his Santa Barbara based production company, Chicago Pacific Entertainment, including book adaptations and documentaries.
THURSDAY, APRIL 19
Professor Miguel Alcubierre was born in Mexico City in 1964. He obtained his physicist degree from the National University in Mexico (UNAM) in 1988, and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Wales in 1994. He later worked for several years at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, Germany, conducting research in black hole physics. In 2002 he joined the Nuclear Sciences Institute at UNAM, where he is a full professor, and its director since June 2012.
His research is in the area of numerical relativity, which is concerned with the computational simulation of astrophysical systems using Einstein’s theory of general relativity. In this area, he has concentrated on the study of sources of gravitational waves, particularly black hole collisions. He is the author of more than 50 publications, as well as a textbook published by Oxford University Press.
Alcubierre has a keen interest in the popularization of science. He has written several articles and given over 80 popular science talks. In 2009 he was awarded the Medal for Merit in Science by the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City. In 2014 he participated—together with a group of nine Mexican artists—in a project called “Matters of Gravity,” which consisted of a parabolic flight out of Star City in Moscow and a subsequent artistic exposition inspired by that experience.
Brand Fortner is teaching professor at North Carolina State University, and adjunct professor of physics at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is considered an expert in accessible scientific visualization and in technical data formats. He previously was chief scientist of the intelligence exploitation group of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, and is the founder of two scientific software companies: Spyglass, Inc, the original publisher of the Mosaic web browser, and Fortner Software LLC, a leading developer of Macintosh based scientific visualization tools.
Dr. Fortner previously held positions at NASA and at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, and has written two books on color vision and technical data: Number by Colors, and The Data Handbook. He holds a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Illinois and funded a chair in astrophysics at that university (along with a second chair in physics at North Carolina State University). He also cosponsors a film festival at that university.
Brand serves on several corporate boards and advisory bodies and in 2005 received the distinguished alumni award from the University of Illinois. He is also an instrument rated private pilot, and co-owner of a Piper Archer.
Writer-director-producer Gregory Nava has been nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, an Emmy and a Writer’s Guild Award. His films have been selected for and honored at many film festivals, including Cannes, Sundance, Berlin, Telluride, San Sebastian, Edinburgh, Chicago and Montreal.
Nava became an internationally renowned filmmaker with “El Norte,” for which he received an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay as well as a Writer’s Guild of America Award nomination. Critic Roger Ebert called “El Norte”—which addresses the plight of illegal immigrants—“the ‘Grapes of Wrath’ of our time.”
“El Norte” was named an “American classic” and designated for special preservation by the Library of Congress.
Nava continued with a string of groundbreaking Latino films, directing and co-writing the multi-generational saga “My Family/Mi Familia,” which starred Jennifer Lopez in her first film role.
Nava went on to write and direct the box-office hit “Selena,” based on the true-life story of the singing superstar. It was the definitive breakout role for Jennifer Lopez, earning her a Golden Globe nomination. He followed with directing the musical biopic “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” starring Halle Berry.
Nava co-wrote the screenplay for the Academy Award-nominated “Frida,” starring Selma Hayek. He also wrote, directed and produced the political thriller “Bordertown,” starring Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas. “Bordertown” was nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and won Amnesty International’s “Artist for Amnesty” award.
In television Nava was nominated for Emmy and Golden Globe “Outstanding Miniseries” awards as the creator and executive producer of “American Family,” the first dramatic Latino series in the history of broadcast television.
Currently Nava is slated to direct “Gates of Eden,” a sweeping epic of the current situation on the border. Nava also has in development “The Magnificent Mendez,” the inspirational story of Rafael Mendez, who rose from poverty in Mexico to become the world’s greatest trumpet player.
In addition to his Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, Nava has received five Imagen awards, three Alma awards, the Hispanic Heritage Award for the Arts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the National Hispanic Heritage Foundation Raul Julia Award for Excellence, the Latino Spirit Award from the State of California and lifetime achievement awards from the National Council of La Raza and the Imagen Foundation.
Amma Asante, MBE, is a multi-award-winning writer and director who won a BAFTA for her first film, “A Way of Life” (2004). She was the first black female director to win a BAFTA Film Award for writing and directing a film. It went on to garner 17 additional awards worldwide, including FIPRESCI and Grand Jury prizes.
Her next film, “Belle” (2013), drew widespread critical acclaim, going on to become one of the highest-grossing independent films of the year. In 2016 “A United Kingdom,” which Asante directed for Pathé and Fox Searchlight US, saw her celebrated as the first black director to open the BFI London Film Festival in its 60-year history.
In 2017 Asante was named a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in the Birthday Honours list, for services to film as a writer and director.
Asante has just completed her fourth film, “Where Hands Touch,” which follows the plight of a young girl of color surviving under Nazi rule in 1944 Berlin.
FRIDAY, APRIL 20
Kogonada is a proud immigrant, born in Seoul and raised in the Midwest. He has been noted by Filmmaker Magazine (25 New Faces of Independent Film) and The New Yorker for his visual work and film criticism commissioned by the Criterion Collection and Sight & Sound.
He currently resides in Nashville with his wife and two sons. "Columbus" is his directorial feature debut and was nominated for a 2018 Independent Film Spirit Award.
3:30pm "A Page of Madness"
Alloy Orchestra is a three-man musical ensemble, writing and performing live accompaniment to classic silent films. Working with an outrageous assemblage of peculiar objects, they thrash and grind soulful music from unlikely sources. Performing at prestigious film festivals and cultural centers in the U.S. and abroad (the Telluride Film Festival, the Louvre, Lincoln Center, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the National Gallery of Art and others), the Alloy Orchestra has helped revive some of the great masterpieces of the silent era.
An unusual combination of found percussion and state-of-the-art electronics gives the Orchestra the ability to create any sound imaginable. Utilizing their famous "rack of junk" and electronic synthesizers, the group generates beautiful music in a spectacular variety of styles. They can conjure up a simple German bar band of the 1920s or a French symphony. The group can make the audience think it is being attacked by tigers, contacted by radio signals from Mars or swept up in the Russian Revolution.
Orchestra members are Terry Donahue (junk percussion, accordion, musical saw and banjo), Roger Miller (synthesizer, percussion) and Ken Winokur (director, junk percussion and clarinet).
8:30pm "American Splendor"
Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini are an Oscar and Emmy-nominated filmmaking team. They wrote and directed "American Splendor" which won over 30 awards including: Grand Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival; FIPRESCI Award, Cannes Film Festival; The Writers’ Guild Award for Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Picture and Best Screenplay, Los Angeles Film Critics Association and National Society of Film Critics and Best Adapted Screenplay Nomination, Academy Awards. "Cinema Verite" (2011), starring Diane Lane, James Gandolfini and Tim Robbins received nine Emmy nominations including Best Movie, Outstanding Directing and a win for Best Editing. In addition, the HBO movie received three Golden Globe nominations, a SAG nomination as well as ACE, GLAAD and Writer’s Guild Award wins.
"The Nanny Diaries" (2007) starring Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, Chris Evans and Alicia Keys was the highest grossing film directed by a woman of that year and premiered at The Venice Film Festival. Other films include "The Extra Man" (Kevin Kline and Paul Dano) and "Girl Most Likely" (Kristen Wiig, Annette Benning and Matt Dillon). Berman and Pulcini’s award winning documentaries include "Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's" and "The Young and the Dead."
The team’s most recent film, "Ten Thousand Saints," premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was selected as a New York Times critic’s pick. The film stars Ethan Hawke, Hailee Steinfeld, Asa Butterfield, Emile Hirsch and Emily Mortimer. "Le Cafe De Balzac," Berman and Pulcini’s comedic short starring Paul Giamatti, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival as part of the Amazon series "The New Yorker Presents."