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Ebertfest announces The Fugitive as opening night film, initial slate for 2018

The 20th anniversary of Roger Ebert’s Film Festival is coming up — April 18-22 at the Virginia Theatre — and the festival has announced the initial slate and opening night film.

The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, will be presented as the opening night film, joined by Director Andrew Davis.

Check out the full announcement below via their press release:


Roger Ebert’s Film Festival to take place April 18-22, 2018 in Champaign, IL 

CHAMPAIGN, ILL – March 9, 2018 — Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, co-founded and hosted by Chaz Ebert and also known as ‘Ebertfest”, announced today that THE FUGITIVE (d. Andrew Davis) will open the 20th anniversary celebration.  THE FUGITIVE celebrates its 25th anniversary of release having opened in theaters on August 6, 1993.  

“We like to start the festival with a bang and Andy Davis’s award winning film THE FUGITIVE will do just that as our projectionist, James Bond, lights it on our huge screen at the beautiful movie palace, the Virginia Theater,” said co-founder Chaz Ebert.  “And that is just for starters. We are really going to celebrate Roger and cinema and the filmmakers and our guests and all that we have shared over these last twenty years. It will be glorious and joyful.” 

Additionally, Ebertfest announced that 13TH (d. Ava DuVernay), BELLE (d. Amma Asante) and DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (d. Julie Dash) as the initial films in this year’s slate.  The remaining schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.

“What an honor to have these Three Queens of Cinema grace our festival,” said Chaz Ebert. “Ava DuVernay first met Roger outside of the practice arena for the Academy Awards when she was 8 years old. She was accompanied by her aunt whose death later inspired Ava’s poignant independent film, I WILL FOLLOW that Roger gave Thumbs Up. Now she is directing a 100 million dollar movie. But why I am especially thrilled to have her at our 20th anniversary is because of all of the good work she is doing in Hollywood to assure that women and people of color are having opportunities that were not available before. She didn’t stop at her own success, she reached out and invited others to come along.”

Special guests Director Andrew Davis (THE FUGITIVE) Director, Writer and Producer Ava DuVernay (13TH), Director Amma Asante (BELLE) and Director Julie Dash (DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST) will be in attendance and participate in Q&As following their screenings.

The 20th Anniversary of Ebertfest will be held April 18-22, 2018 at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, IL with related talks and panel discussions to be held at the Hyatt Place in Champaign and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This year’s event will be dedicated to its namesake and co-founder, Roger Ebert, and to the festival’s cherished friend, Mary Frances Fagan. Dubbed Ebertfest’s “Guardian Angel” by Roger Ebert, Fagan worked for American Airlines and made essential travel for filmmakers possible through generous support over two decades.

Festival Passes are available for $150, plus processing. Festival-goers will receive a discount when they purchase a four-pack priced at $510 instead of $600, or 15 percent off. Additionally, a small number of U. of I. student passes will be made available priced at $100 each. All passes can be purchased or at the Virginia Theater box office, 203 W. Park Ave., Champaign, 217-356-9063.

Tickets for individual movies will be available April 2. Admission is $15 for adults and $13 for students and seniors.

Chaz Ebert is the festival co-founder and producer and Nate Kohn is the festival director. Major filmmakers, stars, historians, critics and film-lovers from all over the world come to experience this annual celebration that includes films from lists Roger drew up over the first 15 years of the festival, as well as others selected by Chaz Ebert and Festival Director Nate Kohn based on Roger’s established criteria for an Ebertfest film.


THE FUGITIVE (1993) – Opening Night Film

Directed by Andrew Davis, 130 mins

Special Guest Andrew Davis will be in attendance

Wrongfully accused of murdering his wife, Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) escapes from the law in an attempt to find her killer and clear his name. Pursuing him is a team of U.S. marshals led by Deputy Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones), a determined detective who will not rest until Richard is captured. As Richard leads the team through a series of intricate chases, he discovers the secrets behind his wife’s death and struggles to expose the killer before it is too late. 

In his 4-star review, Roger Ebert called the film “one of the best entertainments of the year, a tense, taut and expert thriller that becomes something more than that, an allegory about an innocent man in a world prepared to crush him.”

13TH (2016)

Directed by Ava DuVernay, 100 Mins, DCP

Special Guest Ava DuVernay will be in attendance 

The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis.

In his 4 star review on, Odie Henderson wrote that 13TH is “an unflinching, well-informed and thoroughly researched look at the American system of incarceration, specifically how the prison industrial complex affects people of color.”

BELLE (2014)

Directed by Amma Asante, 102 Mins, DCP

Special Guest Amma Asante will be in attendance

BELLE is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode). Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet her status prevents her from the traditions of noble social standing. While her cousin Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) chases suitors for marriage, Belle is left on the sidelines wondering if she will ever find love. After meeting an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on changing society, he and Belle help shape Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

“Amma Asante did something that no one ever thought possible, bringing a Jane Austen sensibility to historical issues of race in England in her film ‘Belle’,” said Chaz Ebert.  “I can’t wait to welcome her to Ebertfest.” 


Directed by Julie Dash, 112 Mins

Special Guest Julie Dash will be in attendance

At the dawn of the 20th century, a family in the Gullah community of coastal South Carolina — former West African slaves who adopted many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions — suffers a generational split. Young Haagar (Kaycee Moore) wants to move to the mainland away from tradition-bound matriarch Nana (Cora Lee Day). Former prostitute Yellow Mary (Barbara-O) gets a cold shoulder when she returns to the island with her female lover, especially from her sister Viola (Cheryl Lynn Bruce). 

Roger Ebert called the film “a tone poem of old memories, a family album in which all of the pictures are taken on the same day” in his 3 star review. He went on to say that “at certain moments we are not sure exactly what is being said or signified, but by the end we understand everything that happened — not in an intellectual way, but in an emotional way.” 

For additional information, please visit


Roger Ebert’s Film Festival (EBERTFEST) celebrates films, genres and formats that have been overlooked by distributors, audiences and/or critics. These include independent, international and studio films that did not win wide audiences; less seen formats such as 70mm; and genres such as documentaries and musical. The festival screens one film at a time, so everyone sees the same films at the same time, promoting a strong sense of community among audience members, filmmakers, guests, students and scholars.

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