IOW: Ebert clips to air on WILL

With the fifteenth annual edition of Roger Ebert’s Film Festival underway at the restored Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign, beginning with last night’s emotional presentation of the Terrence Malick classic DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978), our community finally plays its part in the global healing process following the transcendent film critic’s untimely passing on April 4 at age 70. Racked with mounting physical ailments almost since the launch of “Ebertfest” in 1999, the Urbana native reshaped his livelihood through the power of his own writing in new media platforms, engineering an intimate discourse with his audience on top of the massive influence he had already built from decades as a prolific big-city newspaperman and respected entertainment industry icon. Yet, amongst all the awards, perks, and milestones amassed in a nearly 50-year career, he remained a decent, civilized, and passionate human being with hardy Midwestern roots. As many of you have discerned from the public accolades generated since his death, Ebert’s appeal reached heights way more pronounced than any of his peers or fellow celebrities.

For now, we direct your attention to videos past and present which might give you insight into this legacy. The first is a new compilation of old Ebert interviews, EBERT REMEMBERED, scheduled to air tonight, Thursday, April 18, 8 p.m., on WILL-TV 12, the PBS affiliated broadcasting service of the University of Illinois which is also the primary sponsor of Ebertfest through its College of Media. Hosted by Media interim dean Jan Slater, the special weaves together excerpts in which Ebert “talks about his childhood in Urbana, his experience at the University of Illinois, and his role as a movie critic,” per a press release. The hour-long show will repeat on Sunday, April 21, 4 p.m., and a gallery of full-length archival segments from both radio and television, including the critic’s satellite interview with the late science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke as well as his Ebertfest discussion with actor John Malkovich, can be accessed here.

We have also embedded a pair of recent videos produced by the upstart Champaign firm Shatterglass Studios that directly relate to Ebertfest. The first, created in collaboration with the Champaign Park District, runs about six minutes long and provides up-close images of the beautiful plaster and art work uncovered during the restoration of the Virginia auditorium, particularly the hard-to-reach dome ceiling covered for decades by a dull paint job. This weekend’s Ebertfest audiences are the first to see the Virginia interior in all its vibrant glory during an event, thanks to thousands of hours of intricate work poured into the effort by architectural specialists. The second is a promotional piece commissioned by the College of Media that encapsulates Ebertfest 2012. Running about 11 minutes, it features wonderful time-lapse moments inside the auditorium, numerous testimonials from audience members and festival guests, and all the hazy dreamlike projector shots you can handle.

C-U Blogfidential will offer further thoughts on the current Ebertfest, as well as the passing of Ebert, next week.

~ Jason Pankoke

Ebertfest 2012 Retrospective Doc from Shatterglass Studios on Vimeo.

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