Featured guests include Gina Gershon, Jennifer Tilly, Virginia Madsen, and more.
Ebertfest takes place April 10-13 this year, and single tickets for films go on sale on April 1st.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The schedule is out for this year’s Roger Ebert’s Film Festival hosted by Chaz Ebert, or “Ebertfest,” coming to Champaign-Urbana April 10-13.
The 12-film lineup includes “Bound,” the first film by the writer-director team that later made “The Matrix,” with co-stars Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly coming as guests; “Sideways,” with Oscar-nominated Virginia Madsen as a guest; Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous”; documentaries on poet/writer Maya Angelou and children’s TV host Fred Rogers; and a rescued African-American Romeo-and-Juliet romance, “Cane River,” set in Louisiana.
Chaz Ebert said she “couldn’t be happier” in welcoming Gershon, Madsen and Tilly to the festival as guests, describing them as “three of Roger’s favorite actresses.” They and other guests will appear onstage for Q&As after the screening of their films.
Additional films are Jonathan Demme’s “Rachel Getting Married,” which earned Anne Hathaway an Oscar nomination; “Cold War,” a Polish nominee in this year’s Oscars for best foreign language film; “Coeur Fidele” (“The Faithful Heart”), a French silent film from 1923; and the comedy “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion,” starring Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino.
As previously announced, Ebertfest also will feature the Aretha Franklin concert film “Amazing Grace,” which will open the festival, as well as “A Year of the Quiet Sun,” a post-World War II romance starring the late Scott Wilson, who had been a frequent Ebertfest guest. Opening night also will include a performance by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Choir of Champaign-Urbana.
Tickets for individual films go on sale April 1. Festival passes covering all screenings are still available.
Among other guests appearing with their films will be producers Alan Elliott and Tirrell D. Whittley, with “Amazing Grace”; and directors Rita Coburn Whack, with “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise”; David Mirkin, with “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion”; and Morgan Neville, with the Fred Rogers documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
Neville also will receive this year’s Ebert Humanitarian Award, given the focus of his documentary on the “radical kindness” of Mister Rogers, Chaz Ebert said.
All films are shown in the ornate 1,500-seat Virginia Theatre, a restored downtown Champaign movie palace opened in 1921, which boasts a big screen, high-quality projection and sound, and a theatre organ. Panel discussions and other events are held at the Hyatt Place in downtown Champaign and the U. of I.
The schedule of screenings can be found at ebertfest.com/film-schedule, along with reviews. Information about other events and video retrospectives from previous festivals can be found elsewhere on the website. Also on the website at the time of the event will be a link to live streaming of panel discussions and the post-film Q&A sessions.
This year marks six years since Roger Ebert’s death. The festival will celebrate his TV partnership with Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper – by way of clips from their “Ebert & Roeper” broadcasts and in-depth Q&As with Chaz following the screening of Roeper’s film selections, “Almost Famous” and “Sideways.”
As in previous festivals, the silent film will be accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra.
An added feature of this year’s festival will be virtual reality demonstrations on the plaza outside the Virginia Theatre in between films on April 12, hosted by the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning at the U. of I., through its Virtual Reality Lab and Innovation Studio. The demos will consist of short films that allow viewers to experience border crossings, natural disasters or joyous occasions in other countries.
“Roger was very much a techie and would have loved the fact that we are bringing a VR demonstration to Ebertfest that will give our audience a chance to experience empathy through the lens of technology,” Chaz Ebert said.
Ebertfest was co-founded in 1999 by Chicago Sun-Times film critic and University of Illinois alumnus Roger Ebert and his wife, Chaz. Organized in collaboration with the College of Media at the U. of I., the festival in large part celebrates films, genres and formats that have been overlooked by distributors, audiences and/or critics.
Since Roger Ebert’s death in 2013, Chaz Ebert has served as the festival producer, as well as host, working with longtime festival director Nate Kohn in selecting the films. They draw from lists Roger made over the first 15 years of the festival and select others based on his established criteria.
Festival passes, covering all screenings, are available for $150 plus processing. A four-pack of passes can be purchased for $510, or 15 percent off. Additionally, a small number of U. of I. student passes will be made available at $100 each.
All passes can be purchased through ebertfest.com, thevirginia.org or at the Virginia Theatre box office, 203 W. Park Ave., Champaign, 217-356-9063.
Those interested in being a festival sponsor should contact Andy Hall, the festival’s project coordinator, at email@example.com.
Additional information and updates available at ebertfest.com.'