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Ebertfest 2023 Announces Full Lineup Including Guests Lawrence Bender, Mykelti Williamson, Michael Morris and More

Roger Ebert’s Film Festival is pleased to announce the full lineup of films and accompanying filmmakers who will participate in the post-screening discussions at the 23rd annual event, which runs from Wednesday, April 19th, through Saturday, April 22nd, at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois.

"As this year marks the 10th anniversary of Roger Ebert’s death, the program reflects his guiding principle of empathy," said Chaz Ebert, who co-founded and hosts Ebertfest. "In Roger’s memory, we will gather together in what Roger has called the temple of cinema to reaffirm our connections to each other.” 

The program for Ebertfest 2023 curated by Festival Director Dr. Nathaniel Kohn and Chaz Ebert is titled “Empathy at the Movies,” and includes 11 films, two short films, 20 guests, and three musical performances: 

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19 

6:30pm: NINE DAYS (2020) This ultra-original fantasy drama considers the meaning of life as potential souls audition for the chance to be born. 

Guests

THURSDAY, APRIL 20

9:30am: TOKYO STORY (1953) This year’s Ebertfest audience choice winner was called “one of the greatest films of all time” by Roger Ebert, who wrote: “With no other director do I feel affection for every single shot. …  It says, yes, a movie can help us make small steps against our imperfections.” 

Guests

2pm: THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1920) This German Expressionist silent horror film depicts an insane hypnotist who uses a somnambulist (a sleepwalker) to commit crimes. 

Guest

  • Musical accompaniment by the Anvil Orchestra
  • Moderator Michael Phillips

4pm: MY NAME IS SARA (2019) Sponsored by the Alliance for Inclusion and Respect and Mickey Shapiro This prize-winning docudrama shares the story of Sara Góralnik, a 13-year-old Polish Jew whose parents were killed by Nazis at the outset of the Holocaust. Passing as an Orthodox Christian, Sara is hired as a nanny by a Ukrainian farmer and his wife and must endure grueling work, while trying to protect her true identity and discovering her employers have dark secrets of their own. 

Guests

  • Executive Producer Mickey Shapiro, son of the late Sara Shapiro
  • Director Steven Oritt
  • William Gingold, Holocaust survivor
  • Moderators Dr. Eric Pierson and Matt Zoller Seitz

9pm: AMERICAN FOLK (2017) Folk musicians Elliott and Joni go on a road trip from LA to New York City in the days following 9/11, forging a bond through their love of music and encounters with memorable people. 

Guests

FRIDAY, APRIL 21

10am: TO LESLIE (2022) Inspired by true events, Leslie is a struggling single mom who wins the lottery only to waste it all on alcohol and drugs. Years later, she attempts to get her life back on track but the path to redemption may be more difficult than she can handle. 

Guest

2:30pm: MARIAN ANDERSON: THE WHOLE WORLD IN HER HANDS (2022) Through archival interview recordings, photographs, and personal correspondences, explore the career, art, and legacy of this iconic Black classical singer and civil rights pioneer.

Guests

  • Director Rita Coburn 
  • Producer Brenda Robinson 
  • Performance by Viveca Richards, University of Illinois Lyric Theatre student
  • Katie Barr, pianist
  • Moderators Dr. Douglas A. Williams and Nell Minow

7:30pm: DEREK DELGAUDIO’S IN & OF ITSELF (2020) This biography explores identity and illusion while the storyteller and magician Derek DelGaudio attempts to answer, “Who am I?”  

Guests

  • Director Frank Oz 
  • Writer and subject Derek DelGaudio 
  • Producer Vanessa Lauren
  • Producer Jake Friedman
  • Janet Pierson, SXSW Film Festival director emeritus
  • Moderator Matt Fagerholm

SATURDAY, APRIL 22 

9am: CLUB ALLI (2020) This short sci-fi drama, which won the CU International Film Festival, examines America and the ever-present socio-economic divide.

Guests

  • Writers/Directors Justen and Julien Turner
  • Max Libman, Founder and Director of the CU International Film Festival
  • Moderator Dr. Douglas A. Williams

9am: TEAM DREAM (2022) In this short documentary, two friends discuss what it was like growing up in Chicago during times of segregation, and their experience with Team Dream, which trains women of color in swimming, biking, and triathlons.  

Guests

  • Director Luchina Fisher
  • Madeline Murphy Rabb, Featured in Team Dream 
  • Moderator Dr. Douglas A. Williams

10:30am: FRESH (1994) Roger Ebert described this urban crime thriller as “a story of depth and power, in which the dangerous streets are seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old who reacts with the objectivity he has learned from chess, and the anger taught to him by his life.”  

Guest

2:30pm WINGS OF DESIRE (1987) This German cinematic masterpiece features an angel who is willing to give up his perch high over Berlin, his ability to hear thoughts, as well as his immortality to return to Earth after falling in love with a trapeze artist. 

Guest

  • Michael Barker, Co-President and Co-Founder of Sony Pictures Classics
  • Moderator Brian Tallerico

8pm: FORREST GUMP (1994) “I've never met anyone like Forrest Gump in a movie before, and for that matter I've never seen a movie quite like Forrest Gump," wrote Roger Ebert. The film follows the fictional life of the good-natured Gump, from a young boy in the 1950s with braces on his legs to a father in the 1980s who becomes a part of extraordinary moments in history.

Guest

Please note that filmmaker guest appearances are subject to change, which may include adding a surprise guest to the program. Roger Ebert was a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, University of Illinois journalism alumnus, and Urbana native. Ebertfest is sponsored by the University of Illinois College of Media and Chaz Ebert.

Passes to see all films at Ebertfest 2023 with reserved seating, as well as individual movie tickets, are available to purchase online or by calling the Virginia Theatre box office at 217-356-9063.

Anyone interested in supporting the event as a festival sponsor may contact Molly Cornyn, the festival’s project coordinator, at mcornyn2@illinois.edu.

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