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Ebertfest 2023: Amber Rubarth and David Heinz Present American Folk, Mickey Shapiro Shares Story of My Name is Sara and More!



"Tokyo Story" screens at 9:30am on Thursday, April 20th, at the Virginia Theatre, as part of Ebertfest 2023. Below is an excerpt from the review of the film penned by Roger Ebert, followed the bios of each guest scheduled to attend the screening.

No story could be simpler. An old couple come to the city to visit their children and grandchildren. Their children are busy, and the old people upset their routines. In a quiet way, without anyone admitting it, the visit goes badly. The parents return home. A few days later, the grandmother dies. Now it is the turn of the children to make a journey.

From these few elements Yasujiro Ozu made one of the greatest films of all time. "Tokyo Story" (1953) lacks sentimental triggers and contrived emotion; it looks away from moments a lesser movie would have exploited. It doesn't want to force our emotions, but to share its understanding. It does this so well that I am near tears in the last 30 minutes. It ennobles the cinema. It says, yes, a movie can help us make small steps against our imperfections.

Click here to read the full review.




Michael Phillips is the film critic of the Chicago Tribune. He co-hosted "At the Movies" opposite Richard Roeper and, later, A.O. Scott, and more recently presented 100-plus films on Turner Classic Movies. He has worked full-time as a staff critic for the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Dallas Times-Herald. 

In Chicago, Phillips has taught all over the place (DePaul University most recently), can be heard regularly on the popular Chicago Public Radio podcast "Filmspotting" and, here in Champaign-Urbana, is now in his eighth year directing the University of Illinois College of Media Roger Ebert Fellowship.


Nick Allen is the Senior Editor at He has been writing about film online since 2007, contributing to various publications including The Playlist, Vulture, MEL Magazine, and He has been a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association since 2010. You can follow him on Twitter @nickallen_redux 


"The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" screens at 2pm on Thursday, April 20th, at the Virginia Theatre, as part of Ebertfest 2023. Below is an excerpt from the review of the film penned by Roger Ebert, followed by the bios of each guest scheduled to attend the screening.

The first thing everyone notices and best remembers about "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920) is the film's bizarre look. The actors inhabit a jagged landscape of sharp angles and tilted walls and windows, staircases climbing crazy diagonals, trees with spiky leaves, grass that looks like knives. These radical distortions immediately set the film apart from all earlier ones, which were based on the camera's innate tendency to record reality.

The stylized sets, obviously two-dimensional, must have been a lot less expensive than realistic sets and locations, but I doubt that's why the director, Robert Wiene, wanted them. He is making a film of delusions and deceptive appearances, about madmen and murder, and his characters exist at right angles to reality. None of them can quite be believed, nor can they believe one another.

Click here to read the full review.


ROGER CLARK MILLER, keyboardist and composer of The Anvil Orchestra

Roger Miller studied composition at California Institute of the Arts and piano at the University of Michigan. In 1979, he moved to Boston and co-formed Mission of Burma. Since 1980 he has released over 50 albums, ranging from the aggressive avant-punk of Burma to piano-based music of Maximum Electric Piano, The Binary System and Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. 

His chamber music has been performed at the New England Conservatory, Tufts University, and other venues. He joined the Alloy Orchestra in 1998, and has managed the Anvil Orchestra since 2021. For more information about Miller, visit his website at:

TERRY DONAHUE, drummer, accordionist, musical saw player and percussionist of The Anvil Orchestra

Terry Donahue grew up in Connecticut and has long been fascinated by “found sound”. This curiosity has led him to be an integral part of Boston’s percussion scene as a founding member of the Concussion EnsembleAlloy Orchestra, Zero Zero, and Arcade Ambo. He plucks his 4-string in country music in a country setting in his country home in Bennington, VT.

“Terry Donahue’s list of accomplishments could fill a whole book, but let’s just say his musical partners have ranged from Roger Miller to Ottmar Liebert (The New Age Flamenco King).” said Jon Bonni (The Pit Report, 1993). For more about Terry Donahue, visit



"My Name is Sara" screens at 4pm on Thursday, April 20th, at the Virginia Theatre, as part of Ebertfest 2023. Below is an excerpt from the review of the film penned by Gary Goldstein, followed by the bio of each guest scheduled to attend the screening.

My Name Is Sara,” directed by Steven Oritt from a script by David Himmelstein, is a worthy addition to the seemingly endless string of fact-inspired, Holocaust stories that have vitally found their way to the big and small screens.

It’s an absorbing, affecting, well-performed look at several years in the life of Sara Góralnik, who, in 1942 at age 12, escaped imminent death at the hands of the German army by fleeing her Polish town of Korets (in what is now Ukraine) and making her way, against the odds, to the Ukrainian countryside.

Click here to read the full review.


MICKEY SHAPIRO, producer and son of Sara Góralnik

Mickey Shapiro was born in Germany in 1947 in a displaced persons camp shortly after his parents, Asa and Sara, survived the Holocaust. The family arrived in the United States in 1949 and moved to Detroit, Michigan where they made their home.

In 2002 Shapiro was appointed to serve on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council by President Bush. Since 2007, he has been a member of the USHMM Founders Society and, in 2011, was appointed to the National Leadership Committee. He also served on the USHMM as a member of the Development and Finance Committees and is a member of the Wings of Light. Most recently, Sara and Asa and the Shapiro family were honored permanently in the museum and are its most dedicated philanthropists.

Shapiro has been actively involved with filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s USC Shoah Foundation for nearly 23 years. In 2010 he was appointed as the Inaugural Chair of the Council of the Shoah Foundation. Shapiro served as Executive Producer for the award-winning feature film, "My Name is Sara," which premiered in 2019. The film is inspired by the true story of Sara Guralnik, Mickey Shapiro’s mother. Sara grew up with her parents and three brothers in Koretz, in what was then Poland and now Ukraine.  After escaping a Jewish ghetto in Poland, 11-year-old Sara Guralnik hid in plain sight, passing as an orthodox Christian in the Ukrainian countryside where she was taken in by a farmer and his wife who did not know her true identity. "My Name is Sara" tells the story of her courage and harrowing journey.

STEVEN ORITT, director/producer

Steven’s directing background began in music videos working with the likes of Foo Fighters, Muse, OneRepublic, Pete Yorn and Paulina Rubio. From there, he moved into commercials and long-form with his documentary "American Native", following a reclusive tribe of Indians living in the hills of New Jersey. The film appeared at 13 international festivals, earning 4 best documentary awards and was acquired by Indican Pictures.

Through James Lucy Productions, Steven is currently developing an episodic series for AMC Studios about a notorious crime family from El Paso, Texas, whose quest for the American Dream fueled a 1970’s drug empire; as well as producing Steven’s narrative feature debut, "My Name is Sara". Before being acquired by Strand Releasing, the film appeared in over 50 festivals internationally and garnered 5 best feature awards. Strand released "Sara" theatrically in US cities in July of 2022.

WILLIAM GINGOLD, Holocaust survivor

William Gingold is a child Holocaust survivor from World World II who was born on September 20th, 1939, one day before the hospital in which he was born in Warsaw, Poland, was bombed and destroyed by Nazis. The Gingolds' immediate family were incarcerated in the Warsaw Ghetto until eventually escaping to the Russian border in January of 1942. Upon reaching the Russian encampment, they and other Jewish people were transported in trucks to trains which took them to Siberian lumber work camps. In November of 1942, the Gingolds were allowed to leave the camp and move about within Russia and eventually found their way to Zhambly, Kazakhstan.

After six years of living at the Föehrenwald Displaced Persons Camp, the Gingolds emigrated to the United States of America in May of 1951 and arrive by boat at Ellis Island, NY. Soon thereafter the Gingolds are resettled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where new lives and many transitions began in their start of the American dream and way of life. Their story is documented in the book, Tunnel, Smuggle and Collect - A Holocaust Boy's Story, by Jeffrey Gingold.


Eric Pierson is a professor of Communication at the University of San Diego. He has been part of the faculty at USD for 24 years.  As a scholar he has written on a variety of topics that include film distribution in the 1970’s, hate group recruiting via the Internet, film festival pedagogy, minority images in media, and television history. His work has appeared in both the scholarly and popular press.

His goal is to create scholarship that engages in conversations with those who are both inside and outside of the academy. He is drawn to conversations focusing on the ways in which the business practices of the film and television industries shape and present content connected to issues of race, class, gender, and marginalized groups.” Eric holds two degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a BFA in Fine Arts and a Ph.D. from the Institute of Communications Research.



Matt Zoller Seitz is the Editor at Large of He is also the TV critic for New York Magazine and, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism. His writing on film and television has appeared in The New York Times,, The New Republic and Sight and Sound. Seitz is the founder and original editor of the influential film blog The House Next Door, now a part of Slant Magazine, and the co-founder and original editor of Press Play, an IndieWire blog of film and TV criticism and video essays.

A Brooklyn-based writer and filmmaker, Seitz has written, narrated, edited or produced over a hundred hours’ worth of video essays about cinema history and style for The Museum of the Moving Image, and Vulture, among other outlets. 


"American Folk" screens at 9pm on Thursday, April 20th, at the Virginia Theatre, as part of Ebertfest 2023. Below is an excerpt from the review of the film penned by Katie Walsh, followed by the bios of each guest scheduled to attend the screening.

Editor David Heinz makes his feature directorial debut with the affable music movie “American Folk,” which he also wrote. The film follows two musicians making their way cross-country from Los Angeles to New York after their flight is grounded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Films that use the 2001 attacks as a framing device can often feel phony — exploiting a tragedy as a plot contrivance — but “American Folk” capably sidesteps that, with a willingness to honestly explore the collective emotional state in the days after the events, filtered through the lens of folk music.

Click here to read the full review.


DAVID HEINZ, writer/director/editor

For more than two decades, David Walsh Heinz has been a fixture in cutting rooms on both studio and independent pictures alike. He has served as the Visual Effects Editor on some of the most ground-breaking VFX movies of all-time including two films in the "Planet of the Apes" franchise as well as Disney's academy-award winning "The Jungle Book". 

Most recently Heinz edited "The Call of the Wild" for Fox/Disney, "A Christmas Story Christmas" for Warner Bros., and prior to that a string of indie hits culminating with the award-winning "American Folk" in 2018 which he wrote, directed and edited. Born and raised in Illinois, he currently resides in California with his wife and two children.


In her unassuming yet beguiling way, Amber Rubarth draws you into a world where wonder and high-minded concepts weave into a poetic tapestry, a world where space and time can come screeching to a halt with “songs so strong they sound like classics from another era,” (Acoustic Guitar).

Grand Prize winner for songwriting and performance in NPR Mountain Stage new song contest, Rubarth's newest album 'Wildflowers in the Graveyard' explores the cycles of life, death and renewal in nature and relationships. In addition to touring, Rubarth’s music has also woven deeply into the film worlds, debuting her acting starring in the feature film ‘American Folk’ alongside folk artist Joe Purdy. After winning various film festivals, it released in theaters early 2019 to great acclaim, with Rolling Stone praising the soundtrack as “two wondrous new voices steeped in the folk tradition” and was picked up by Hulu and Amazon. For more information, visit



Nell Minow is the Contributing Editor at She reviews movies and DVDs each week as The Movie Mom online and on radio stations across the US. She is the author of The Movie Mom's Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments.

Her articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Kansas City Star, USA Today, Family Fun, Daughters, Parents, and three editions of The Practical Guide to Practically Everything. She is the founder of Miniver Press, a publishing company specializing in non-fiction ebooks and print books about the arts, music, sports, history, and culture. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Chicago Law School and her wonderful husband allows her to have a "10 best movie" list with 20 movies on it.


Sheila O'Malley received a BFA in Theatre from the University of Rhode Island and a Master's in Acting from the Actors Studio MFA Program. Along with, her work has also appeared in Film Comment, The Dissolve, Masters of Cinema, Movie Mezzanine, Flavorwire, Capital New York, Fandor, Press Play, and Bright Wall/Dark Room.  

She has contributed video and print essays for various releases from The Criterion Collection. O’Malley wrote the narration (read by Angelina Jolie) for the Governors Awards Lifetime Achievement tribute reel to legendary actress Gena Rowlands. O’Malley also wrote the narration for the Governors Awards tribute to editor Anne Coates’, played at the 2016 Governors Awards. O’Malley writes about actors, movies, and Elvis Presley at her personal site, The Sheila Variations. A short film she wrote, "July and Half of August,” premiered at the 2016 Albuquerque Film and Music Experience.

Read her answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here.

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