Smile Politely

Ebertfest 2018: Your full preview

Roger Ebert’s Film Festival is quickly approaching. The schedule was published early last week, so we have an overview of the films and panels that will be a part of the festival. We also learned about the guests that will be in attendance, including “the dude” Jeff Dowd, for the screening of The Big Lebowski. Here’s a quick guide to all of the films being screened this year and their guestsm so you can figure out exactly what you’re going to see. 

The Fugitive

April 18th at 7 p.m. 

Opening night of this year’s Ebertfest will be the 1993 film starring Harrison Ford, who was wrongfully accused of killing his wife and is on the run from the law while he struggles to put together what really happened. Tommy Lee Jones won multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his role of U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard, the man in charge of hunting down Ford’s character. The story is actually based on a television series of the same name that ran in the 60s, but Andrew Davis’ direction brings it to new levels. Roger Ebert said in his review “Davis paints with bold visual strokes so that the movie rises above its action-film origins and becomes operatic.” Davis himself will be the guest for the evening. 

Interstellar in 70 mm

April 19th at noon

Interstellar premiered in 2014 and was undeniably a box office hit, making about $677 million dollars worldwide. Co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan, the film is set in a dystopian future and follows a group of astronauts in search of a new home for humanity. Generally speaking, it has been widely admired for its scientific accuracy regarding wormholes and black holes and not surprisingly, Ebertfest has invited scientists Miguel Alcubierre and Brand Fortner to the screening to discuss the science behind the story.


April 19th at 4 p.m.

This 1997 film is a biographical account of singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez’s career and tragic murder at the age of 23. It was actually produced by her father, Abraham Quintanilla Jr (who is played by Edward James Olmos in the film) in an effort to create an accurate account of her life. Jennifer Lopez stars as Selena in what Roger Ebert calls a “star-making performance.” On the whole, he gave the film 3 and ½ stars out of 4. Director Gregory Nava, who also wrote the script after spending hours with the family, will be there to discuss the film.


April 19th at 8:30 p.m.

Belle is a British film directed by Amma Asante inspired by a 18th century painting of Dido Belle and Elizabeth Murray, who are presented as equals despite their difference in race and how unusual that would be for the time. It centers primarily on Dido Belle’s personal life, about which little is known, so some of the narrative is fictional. But it’s juxtaposed against historically accurate racial tensions and the trial known as the “Zong massacre,” which dealt with insurance claims after slaves had been thrown overboard by the captain. A mix of fact and fiction, drama and history, Belle has a fantastic cast, with Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido, as well as Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Matthew Goode, and Tom Felton. Director Amma Asante will be in attendance.


April 20th at noon

Premiering just last year at the Sundance Film Festival, Columbus centers around a young man stuck in Columbus, Ohio, his burgeoning relationship with a young woman caught in a similar situation, and their exploration of the architecture of the city. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said, “How do you make a ravishing romance about architecture? You’ll find the answer with Kogonada, the video essayist and critic whose debut feature, Columbus, is a spellbinder.” Director Kogonada will be in attendance, along with executive producers Ruth Ann Harnisch and Bill Harnisch, and producer Andrew Miano.

Page of Madness

April 20th at 3:30 p.m.

Page of Madness is a Japanese silent film that was made in 1926 and then, interestingly, lost until 1971, when it was rediscovered in a storehouse. The complete summary of the plot sounds downright eerie. It’s set in an insane asylum, where we see a daughter run into her father, who apparently drove the mother insane and got a job at the asylum in order to look after her. The daughter announces she’s engaged, and there is concern about her fiancee finding out about her mentally ill mother — a dealbreaker for the time period. But in reading about this film, it has become very clear that it’s less about the literal plot line and more about the haunting visuals and the way in which the film plays with hallucinatory imagery. Alloy Orchestra, who will be accompanying the screening, is a three man musical ensemble based out of Cambridge, Massachussettes. They work solely with silent films, using found obects to accompany them in new ways. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they will affect the experience. 

American Splendor

April 20th at 8:30 p.m.

American Splendor is an biographical comedy drama following the life of Harvey Parker, who created the American Splendor comic book series. It’s written and directed by documentarians Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who will be guests that evening. The narrative features Paul Giamatti as Pekar, but the creators felt it was important to also include Pekar appearing as himself and commenting on being played by an actor, which makes for some meta moments.


April 21st at 10:30 a.m.

13th is a documentary by Ava DuVernay about the ways in which slavery has been perpetuated since the passing of the 13th Amendment. Looking at the history of racial inequality, its  myriad of topics include disenfranchisement, lynchings, Jim Crow laws, the war on drugs, and mass incarceration. Beautiful and thought-provoking, the documentary was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Film and has won countless other awards. Director Ava DuVernay, who also directed Selma and A Wrinkle in Time and was the first female African American director to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, will be in attendance to discuss the film.

Daughters of the Dust

April 21st at 2:30 p.m.

Written, directed, and produced by Julie Dash, the 1991 film Daughters of the Dust tells the story of different generations of Gullah women as they prepare to leave their home in order to migrate north to the mainland. Roger Ebert said of the Gullah dialect used in the film: “The fact that some of the dialogue is deliberately difficult is not frustrating, but comforting; we relax like children at a family picnic, not understanding everything, but feeling at home with the expression of it.” Daughters of the Dust was the first film directed by an African American woman to receive general theatrical release in the United States, and as many sources have pointed out, seems to have inspired some of the imagery in Beyonce’s Lemonade. Julie Dash, who has also written a book about the film and a sequel to the story set many years later, will be a guest that afternoon.

Rambling Rose

April 21st at 5:30 p.m.

This 1991 film is told through the perspective of a man looking back on his youth and the time during the Great Depression when a woman named Rose came to live with his family in exchange for domestic service, but her intense sexuality creates conflict. The film stars real life mother and daughter Laura Dern and Diane Ladd, who received Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively. This was the only time in Academy Awards history for two members of the same family to be nominated — and for the same film too! Director Martha Coolidge will be in attendance.

The Big Lebowski

April 21st at 9:30 p.m.

In 1998 this Coen brothers film, starring Jeff Bridges as “The Dude,” premiered to a bit of a lukewarm response. One review actually said, “It’s hard to believe that this is the work of a team that won an Oscar last year…” Since then, however, it has become a bit of a cult classic. In fact, there are now festivals across many cities celebrating only this film and even a religion called “Dudeism.” Additionally, the film was also added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Just last week, Ebertfest announced that the dude himself will be in attendance: Jeff Dowd, who inspired the character, will be the guest that evening.

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

April 22nd at noon

Premiering at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World is a documentary by Catherine Bainbridge about the many indigenous people who have made an impact on rock music. Among the many artists discussed are Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey, Link Wray, Jesse Ed Davis, Stevie Salas, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, Randy Castillo, and Jimi Hendrix. At Sundance, it won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Masterful Storytelling. Bainbridge, who has a prolific career in films highlighting Native Americans and Canadian Aboriginals, will be in attendance.


Roger Ebert’s Film Festival will be taking place April 18th to 22nd. Full festival passes are $150. Individual screenings are $15 each. For more information, click here

More Articles