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The 25th Anniversary of Ebertfest to Open with Star 80, With The Best Man As Its Centerpiece

Ebert Fest will be 25 Years Old!!!

I am absolutely overjoyed to follow Variety's announcement that our Roger Ebert’s Film Festival "Ebertfest" will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year! It is incredible to think that the film festival Roger and I co-founded in 1999 in conjunction with the College of Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is still being celebrated. Roger intended it as simply a film lover's festival, and I am so grateful that so many of the patrons kept coming back year after year and asking for more. All I can say is "Thank You" and please join us April 17-20 in the beautifully restored movie palace at the Virginia Theatre. 

When Roger was ill and in the hospital, we used to think about the festival and plan which movies we wanted to show as soon as he was released. That first Ebertfest after he left the hospital in 2007 felt like such a triumph. And in fact, Roger walked into the theater a bit weak, but by the time the festival ended days later, he was strong and practically running up and down the aisles in between the showing of the films. Roger said that movies are a machine that generates empathy, but in that instance, movies were a machine that generated healing. And so I look forward to our upcoming festival with joy and anticipation, and the hope that magic once again happens when we all convene in the dark. 

Photo courtesy of Sound Opinions.

On April 17th, we will kick off Opening Night with a screening of Bob Fosse’s critically acclaimed film "Star 80." I am thrilled to announce that both stars, Eric Roberts and Mariel Hemingway, will be in attendance. Roger praised the film with a glowing 4-star review, calling it “an important movie…Devastating, violent, hopeless, and important, because it holds a mirror up to a part of the world we live in, and helps us see it more clearly.” Roger has praised performances by both Hemingway and Roberts over the years.

Ebertfest will showcase the 25th Anniversary of writer-director Malcolm D. Lee’s wedding-themed, reunion romantic comedy "The Best Man" as this year’s centerpiece film with Lee coming to celebrate. We are thrilled to welcome him with his first film which was produced by his cousin Spike Lee, in 1999, the same year as our inaugural festival. "'The Best Man"' has become a classic and introduced stars we all know today including Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard and Regina Hall, among others.” Lee has directed numerous crowd-pleasing comedies including "Girls Trip" and "The Best Man Holiday."

Lisa Cortes, the Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning producer and director, will attend Ebertfest to discuss her film "Little Richard: I Am Everything," a documentary about Little Richard, the unique, flamboyant, rock ‘n’ roll icon who shaped the world of music with hits like “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally” (Read Sheila O'Malley's review of the film here). Lisa gives us a very detailed look at his life and his influence on so many who came after him. It is always a pleasure to see Lisa. I saw her last weekend at the Spirit Awards and she was eagerly looking forward to Ebertfest. She will love our Ebertfest audiences and they will love her. 

We will also continue our tradition of music in films and on stage. Ebertfest was born out of Roger’s conviction that movies can be a machine that generates empathy. And that conviction has evolved into what I call my FECK Principles: Forgiveness, Empathy, Compassion and Kindness. I think that movies combined with music can have a profound effect on encouraging more compassion in the world. The films and musical performances we have chosen for our 25th anniversary are ones that would make Roger proud. 

I am also introducing my new book, It’s Time to Give a FECK: Elevating Humanity Through Forgiveness, Empathy, Compassion and Kindness. It will be published on Thursday, May 7th. But I am so happy to be able to discuss it with the Ebertfest audience who has exhibited so much empathy, compassion and kindness over the years. 

Director Diane Moore, a filmmaker who has worked in the visual arts field for more than 15 years, and Roderick Cox, a world-renowned orchestra conductor and winner of the 2018 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award, will join the stage to discuss "Conducting Life," a documentary that follows the remarkable journey of Cox as he pursues his dream to secure a top position with a major orchestra. Maestro Cox will come in from Berlin to join us.

Photographer and first time director Claude-Aline Miller will introduce her short film "376 Days (Nick Cave: Keep It Moving)." The subject of her film, internationally known multimedia artist Nick Cave, has an exhibit of one of his works at the Krannert Museum at the University of Illinois. Visitors to Ebertfest will be able to view it during the period of the Festival.

We will unveil additional updates to the festival program in the coming weeks. And we hope that you will join us to celebrate 25 years of going to the movies! 

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Ebertfest passes are currently available to purchase online or by calling the box office at 217-356-9063. Individual festival passes to see all films cost $200, which includes reserved seating. New this year are 4-film passes for $70: choose between an Evening Pass or a Saturday Pass.

For additional information please visit ebertfest.com

To become a supporting Festival Sponsor please contact Molly Cornyn, the Festival Coordinator, at mcornyn2@illinois.edu.

Chaz Ebert

Chaz is the CEO of several Ebert enterprises, including the President of The Ebert Company Ltd, and of Ebert Digital LLC, Publisher of RogerEbert.com, President of Ebert Productions and Chairman of the Board of The Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation, and Co-Founder and Producer of Ebertfest, the film festival now in its 24th year.

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