Passes for the 22nd annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, or “Ebertfest,” will go on sale Friday, November 1, at the official sites of Ebertfest and its main venue, The Virginia Theatre, 203 W. Park Avenue, Champaign, Illinois. They can also be purchased by calling the theater box office at 217-356-9063. The festival, co-founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz Ebert at the University of Illinois, College of Media, is slated to run from Wednesday, April 15th, through Saturday, April 18th, 2020. Roger Ebert, an Urbana native, University of Illinois journalism graduate and Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, passed away in 2013. Chaz Ebert, Roger’s widow, has been it's executive producer since the beginning, and it's host since 2007. Dr. Nate Kohn has served as the festival director from year one; teaches screenwriting at the University of Georgia, in Athens, and is a board member of the Peabody Awards.
Mrs. Ebert states that "the year 2020 will be special in many ways and Ebertfest will reflect that in retrospectives that Roger valued as well as in other filmmakers that Nate Kohn and I find compelling. I am so excited to present spirited experiences that rock the house like the documentary by Alan Elliott earlier this year about Aretha Franklin that we followed with a live gospel choir from the Champaign community. After 22 years I am still as thrilled by the festival as our loyal Ebertfest audiences and so I am having a ball working with Nate to curate our April program."
From rare archival prints of iconic classics to the latest and greatest works of modern cinema, Ebertfest's lineup has it all. Though the official titles for 2020 will not be announced until several weeks prior to the festival, cinephiles can simply search through the archives to get a sampling of the phenomenal guests and screenings offered each year.
A few past visitors to the festival include Nancy Allen, Steven Apkon, Ramin Bahrani, Renée Baker, Michael Barker, Seymour Bernstein, Charles Burnett, Michael Butler, Veronica Cartwright, Arthur C. Clarke, Paul Cox, Billy Crudup, Hugh Dancy, Guillermo del Toro, Caleb Deschanel, Keir Dullea, Robert Forster, Gina Gershon, Andrew Harvey, Michael Hausman, Werner Herzog, Isabelle Huppert, Norman Jewison, Charlie Kaufman, Maja Komorowska, Kris Kristofferson, Neil LaBute, Brie Larson, Norman Lear, Ang Lee, Spike Lee, Kasi Lemmons, Richard Linklater, Guy Maddin, John Malkovich, Andrew Miano, Bennett Miller, Gregory Nava, Norman Lear, Tim Blake Nelson, Jeff Nichols, Bill Nighy, Patton Oswalt, Chazz Palminteri, Rebecca Parrish, Father Michael Pfleger, Michael Polish, Alan Polsky, James Ponsoldt, Alex Proyas, Bob Rafelson, Alan Rickman, Gil Robertson, Gary Ross, Paul Schrader, Jason Segel, Michael Shannon, Timothy Spall, Oliver Stone, Tilda Swinton, Rita Taggart, Anna Thomas, Jennifer Tilly, David Warner, Paul Weitz, Haskell Wexler, Scott Wilson, Irwin Winkler, Shailene Woodley and Terry Zwigoff.
The festival passes cover all screenings during the festival, held in the ornate Virginia Theatre, a restored downtown Champaign movie palace. Related talks and panel discussions will be held at the Hyatt Place hotel in downtown Champaign and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The lineup of films, guests and other events will be announced several weeks before the festival.
In addition to celebrated films, the festival presents cinematic works overlooked by audiences, critics or distributors, and academic panels plus speakers currently working in various segments of the film industry.
The passes are $150, plus processing. Four passes purchased together are $510 instead of $600, or 15 percent off. Also available are a small number of U. of I. student passes priced at $100 each.
Updates will be posted on the festival website. Tickets for individual movies will be available Monday, April 1. Those interested in being a festival sponsor should contact Andy Hall, the festival's project coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below you'll find a video chronicling the 20th anniversary edition of Ebertfest from 2018...
Header photos by Timothy Hiatt, courtesy of Ebertfest.