Article du C-U: Ebertfest ’14, pt.1

“Goodbye ‘Solo’ (With a Little Help From Our Friends)”
After sending a battery of Confidential agents into the Ebertfest fold in April, we present their findings

by Jason Pankoke


As we touched on briefly in last fall’s C-U Confidential digest, your humble editor found a somewhat renewed sense of enjoyment out of Roger Ebert’s Film Festival when attending the 2013 edition even though it took place mere days after the passing of its founder, the film critic and late-blooming social essayist Roger Ebert (1942-2013). I had decided to not only be a willing face in the expectedly dumbstruck crowd, but also a slightly vulnerable soul in search of that big-screen transcendence only the best cinema can provide. I debated about recounting the occasion serially on C-U Blogfidential, as we previously did for the 2001 and 2008 events, except that I did not know what to say regarding Ebert’s passing. Omitting mention of it from anecdotes otherwise fleshing out my five trips to the Virginia Theatre would simply have registered as a cheat. I backed away from the end of the proverbial diving board and, as a result, no festival coverage of substance appeared here.

Fast forward 12 months and a 2014 “Ebertfest” press pass arrived quietly in the mailbox of the Secret MICRO-FILM Headquarters, courtesy of the College of Media at the University of Illinois, despite our failure to participate in the 2013 on-line conversation. Could we regain momentum in our Park Avenue presence? An entire year’s worth of interrelated chatter – unending Ebert accolades from the international entertainment world, a relentless flow of Ebert-centric stories across all media, timely buzz generated by key announcements such as Champaign appearances by Hollywood heavyweights Oliver Stone and Spike Lee – simply would not allow the popular 16-year-old event to drift out of sight or mind. Therefore, plenty of overarching incentive existed for us to pull together something constructive for CUBlog. I soon realized this would be a great opportunity to call up several Confidential rookies and send them into the field of (photo) play on our editorial behalf.

Unlike the analytical watermark reached by Anthony Zoubek in discussing Ebertfest 2008, or the wide-ranging mise-en-scène employed by yours truly in recalling Ebertfest 2001, this tandem was tasked with placing their individual spins on individual shows in regards to what makes Ebertfest-at-the-Virginia unique. Although we will not file reports on all screenings or satellite happenings, we hope you will enjoy the variety of directions we’ll take in characterizing the most recent Roger Ebert’s Film Festival. Look for our second installment and first guest essay tomorrow, Friday, July 11, in which Brian Paris will talk about the overwhelming reception given LIFE ITSELF on opening night. Next week, Sierra Marcum shares her thoughts on the lauded Saudi drama WADJDA, and further entries will follow on a weekly basis!

~ Jason Pankoke

p.s. LIFE ITSELF, the Roger Ebert documentary directed by Steve James (THE INTERRUPTERS, HOOP DREAMS), begins a single-week run tomorrow at the Art Theater Co-op, 126 W. Church St., in downtown Champaign. Reference our weekly Calendar as a reminder and visit the Art for show times!

:: Part 2 ::


Cover graphic: © Roger Ebert’s Film Festival/Daily Illini

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