Friday, May 24, 2024

Ebertfest Film Festival Over the Years | Festivals & Awards


Ebertfest 2018, Days 4 & 5: Daughters of the Dust, The Big Lebowski, 13th and More

One of the most rapturous ovations I’ve seen in the six years I’ve been attending Ebertfest was received by Ava DuVernay, the celebrated director who flew to Champaign, Illinois, amidst a busy schedule, in order to attend the Saturday morning screening of her Oscar-nominated 2016 documentary, “13th.” I immediately rose to my feet when she appeared on the stage, not just because her film is a towering achievement but because its call to action is overwhelming in its potency. DuVernay’s film pinpoints the 13th Amendment’s loophole approving slavery “as a punishment for crime,” and uses it as her jumping off point for a scathing indictment of the U.S. prison system. She explores how the “war on drugs” propelled by Nixon and enforced by Reagan targeted African-American communities, sending the vast majority of prisoners to jail without a fair trial.

Ebertfest 2019, Day 3: Sebastian, Cold War, Cane River, A Year of the Quiet Sun, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion

After the screening, the festival paid tribute to the film and Wilson by having both Heavenly Wilson, Scott’s wife and a familiar face to regular attendees, and co-star Maja Komorowska, who flew in from Poland and was accompanied by her grandson, Jerzy Tyskiewicz, who served as her translator. Obviously, Q&A’s involving a translator can sometimes be tough, but between Tyskiewicz’s charm and Komorowska’s delightful personality—the kind that needs no translation—it proved to be a relatively smooth experience. (It didn’t hurt that people struggling with translations was a running joke in the film itself.) Between the two of them and Heavenly, who teared up during her introduction following a montage of clips from throughout Scott’s career, and then delighted the audiences with a number of anecdotes about making the film in Poland, it proved to be a lively, and touching tribute to Wilson, whose spirit will no doubt continue to bless Ebertfest for years to come.

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Ebertfest 2022 Recap: A Golden Homecoming

Starting off this year’s opening night on April 20th was a hauntingly beautiful performance from Israeli-born singer/songwriter Eef Barzelay (a.k.a. Clem Snide), whose song entitled “Roger Ebert” premiered on his 2020 folk album, Beyond Forever Just Beyond (you can view it here). Tracy Sulkin, Dean of the College of Media who is celebrating her twentieth anniversary at the University of Illinois, spoke prior to the night’s screening, along with Ebertfest producer, host and co-founder Chaz Ebert and festival director Nate Kohn. Questlove’s Oscar-winning documentary “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”, which chronicles the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, was followed by a rousing performance from jazz vocalist Tammy McCann and the soulful band, Ther’Up.Y, fronted by Aplustrodamus (Aaron Wilson). The group surprised Chaz by performing the song she wrote, “I Remember People,” which was originally sung by Rashada Dawan and the Chicago Soul Spectacular.

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