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FINAL SLATE OF ‘EBERTFEST’ FILMS ANNOUNCED

Reprinted from UIUC News Bureau, 4/2/18

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Organizers announced the remaining seven films, as well as the schedule of screenings and panels, for this year’s Roger Ebert’s Film Festival hosted by Chaz Ebert, or “Ebertfest,” coming to downtown Champaign April 18-22.
Tickets for individual films go on sale today (April 2) and festival passes are still available.

The added films, with associated guests:

“Interstellar” (2014), Christopher Nolan’s science fiction epic about a team of astronauts traveling to the other end of the galaxy to find a new home to replace a spoiled Earth. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, among others, it is “an impressive, at times astonishing work,” according to critic Matt Zoller Seitz.

The film will be shown in 70mm and scientists Miguel Alcubierre and Brand Fortner will lead a discussion afterward on how real science inspired and is represented in the film. Alcubierre, a Mexican physicist, has theorized a faster-than-light warp drive. Fortner is a University of Illinois alumnus who has held positions at NASA and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

“Selena” (1997), a biographic drama starring Jennifer Lopez as the Mexican-American singer Selena Quintanilla, who found huge success in Mexico and on the Spanish-language charts but whose life was tragically cut short on the verge of her first English-language album. Roger Ebert, in his review, said the film succeeded “in evoking the magic of a sweet and talented young woman.” Director Gregory Nava will be a guest.

“Columbus” (2017), about a man who finds himself stranded in Columbus, Indiana, and develops a relationship with a young architecture enthusiast. The city is known for its many significant modernist buildings, and the film takes advantage of them as it follows the couple in explorations of both the city and their conflicted emotions.

The man is played by John Cho, known for his roles in the “Harold & Kumar” and recent “Star Trek” movies, but he plays a very different character here. Kogonada directed the film that critic Sheila O’Malley described as a “stunning directorial debut.” Kogonada will be a guest along with executive producers Ruth Ann Harnisch and Bill Harnisch, and producer Andrew Miano.

“American Splendor” (2003), an inventive biopic about an eccentric underground comic book writer, Harvey Pekar, much of which focuses on his day-to-day life in Cleveland and his relationship with his patient wife. Pekar is played by Paul Giamatti, as well as by himself, and many of his musings are brought to the screen through panels suggestive of a comic book. Roger Ebert called the film “delightful in the way it finds its own way to tell its own story.” Guests will include directors/screenwriters Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, and producer Ted Hope.

“Rambling Rose” (1991), about a Southern family during the Great Depression and its interactions with a domestic servant named Rose. Laura Dern plays the title character and Robert Duvall the father, who must rebuff her unwanted sexual advances. Roger Ebert called the film “light as air, as delicate as a flower.” Director Martha Coolidge will be a guest.

“Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World” (2017), a documentary about the little-known role of Native Americans in the development of rock music, including figures like blues pioneer Charlie Patton, jazz singer Mildred Bailey and guitar wizard Jimi Hendrix. The film uses playful re-creations and little-known stories, alongside concert footage, audio archives and interviews to show how many treasured artists and songs found their inspiration in ancient, native melodies and harmonies, often infused with a desire to resist. Director Catherine Bainbridge will be a guest.

“A Page of Madness” (1926), this year’s silent film, from Japan, about a man who takes a job at an asylum as part of a scheme to free his imprisoned wife. The Alloy Orchestra will provide the accompaniment, as it has for numerous silent films at previous Ebertfests.

Five other films and related guests were announced in two previous releases, with
four of those to be accompanied by their directors as guests: “The Fugitive,” directed by Illinois alumnus Andrew Davis, which will open the festival; “The 13th,” directed by Ava DuVernay; “Belle,” directed by Amma Asante; and “Daughters of the Dust,” directed by Julie Dash. The other, “The Big Lebowski,” will come with Jeff Dowd, a writer and producer and the man who inspired the movie’s central character, “The Dude.”

The schedule of film screenings can be found at ebertfest.com/film-schedule.

“Ebertfest” will also include panel discussions during the Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings of the festival, featuring numerous festival guests, among them producers, directors, writers, academics and critics. The schedule for those will be posted at ebertfest.com/panel-discussions.

All Ebertfest 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 Wurlitzer organ. Festival guests appear onstage for Q&As after their respective films.

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 are available for $150, plus processing. Festivalgoers will receive a 15 percent discount when they purchase a four-pack. Additionally, a small number of U. of I. student passes will be made available at $100 each.
All passes can be purchased through www.ebertfest.com, www.thevirginia.org or at the Virginia Theatre 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.