WBEZ | champaign illinois http://www.wbez.org/tags/champaign-illinois Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Ebertfest lost its founder, but not its direction http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-04/ebertfest-lost-its-founder-not-its-direction-106699 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F88334561&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2438030817_8e5cd727f1_z.jpg" style="float: right; height: 263px; width: 350px;" title="File: The Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois. A sold-out crowd will gather in Wednesday night for the 15th annual Ebertfest. (Flickr/Rex Bennett)" />The <a href="http://www.ebertfest.com/index.html" target="_blank">15th annual Roger Ebert Film Festival</a> kicks off in Champaign, Illinois on Wednesday.</p><p dir="ltr">Roger Ebert won&rsquo;t be there. The famed Chicago film critic died earlier this month, just after stepping down (he called it a <a href="http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/a-leave-of-presence" target="_blank">&ldquo;leave of presence&rdquo;</a>) as the Sun-Times film critic.</p><p dir="ltr">But Ebert&rsquo;s ethos&mdash;his influence and taste and general good spirit&mdash;is all over the event.</p><p dir="ltr">Ebertfest doesn&rsquo;t work like a typical film festival.</p><p dir="ltr">The movies aren&rsquo;t submitted. They are hand selected by Ebert and his staff. They&rsquo;re not &ldquo;in contention,&rdquo; or vying for prizes from select juries made up of celebrated members of the global film community. You also won&rsquo;t see studio types hanging around Champaign, trying to make distribution deals.</p><p dir="ltr">But there will be some film stars on hand.</p><p dir="ltr">Actors Jack Black and Tilda Swinton will introduce and talk about their respective films <em>Bernie</em> and<em> Julia</em>. Haskell Wexler, the legendary Chicago cinematographer, who is an unbelievable 91 years old (a longevity <a href="http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2013-04-17/wexler-heads-ebertfest-feeling-perfect.html" target="_blank">he chalks up to being grouchy</a>), will introduce the opening night film, Terrence Malick&rsquo;s 1978 stunner <em>Days of Heaven</em>.</p><p dir="ltr">Interesting directors abound, from as far away as Australia (Paul Cox, <em>Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh</em>) and as close as Lake Bluff, Illinois (Randy Moore, who will introduce his intriguing Disney noir <em><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NFPQfdlDZY" target="_blank">Escape from Tomorrow</a></em>).</p><p dir="ltr">That effort to include homegrown talent, <a href="http://www.ebertfest.com/fifteen/bios.html#kumare" target="_blank">some with ties to the University of Illinois,</a> is one of the things that makes Ebertfest a special event.</p><p dir="ltr">But it also just sounds like fun to sit and watch movies, some old and some new, with people who both love films and love to make a living from them.</p><p dir="ltr">The schedule makes it possible to savor rather than gulp down the experience. Only 12 features and a couple of short subjects will screen over the five-day fest. Obviously watching them all is the thing to do.</p><p dir="ltr">But here are a few recommendations.</p><p dir="ltr">Two of my favorites are from last year, Richard Linklater&rsquo;s <em>Bernie</em> and Joachim Trier&rsquo;s <em>Oslo, August 31st</em> are very different movies that nonetheless have a surprising amount in common.</p><p dir="ltr">Both directors are independents who&rsquo;ve also formed ties with commercial enterprises (Hollywood and advertising respectively). Both have a deep interest in films about &lsquo;generational drift,&rsquo; or the ways young people struggle to find and maintain a sense of identity and place within a larger community and set of values.</p><p dir="ltr">And both of these films are driven by the performances of their incredible leads. Jack Black practically reinvented himself as an actor in <em>Bernie</em>, and absolutely should have been nominated for a best actor Oscar last year. But if you haven&rsquo;t yet watched Anders Danielsen Lie, who has now made two films with Trier, I think you&rsquo;ll be moved by his turn in <em>Oslo</em>. His character veers between possibility and pathos on his way to a tragic end. And as Ebert suggested in his review, you almost want to reach out and steer him out of the film and destiny he&rsquo;s trapped in, into another life, or maybe a different movie.</p><p dir="ltr">And because the pleasures of filmgoing can rise and fall on the company you keep, I wouldn&rsquo;t miss the opportunity to watch<em> Days of Heaven</em> with the Ebertfest crowd. Now that Malick (another Illinois native) is practically churning out the films, it is hard to remember the days when he hadn&rsquo;t made a movie for twenty years, when we only had <em>Badlands</em> and<em> Days </em>by which to assess his talents. Back then his films seemed like far cries from a distant country&mdash;what genius went into the wilds of the American landscape and emerged with these earthy and feverish tales? These days I&rsquo;m less enamored of his films. But what a great crowd with whom to rehash his career.</p><p dir="ltr">Finally, Tilda Swinton in person? <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fi8GdqzHHk0" target="_blank">Wow.</a></p><p dir="ltr">The 15th Annual Roger Ebert Film Festival kicks off Wednesday and runs through Sunday at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois. The event is sold out.</p><p><em>Alison Cuddy is WBEZ&rsquo;s Arts and Culture reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy" target="_blank">@wbezacuddy</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison?ref=tn_tnmn" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and&nbsp;<a href="http://instagram.com/cuddyreport" target="_blank">Instagram.</a></em></p></p> Wed, 17 Apr 2013 15:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-04/ebertfest-lost-its-founder-not-its-direction-106699