The 20th Annual Robert Ebert Film Festival was held from April 18 through 22 at The Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois. A tribute to the legacy of the late film critic’s work and the films he loved, every day the moviegoers packed into the theatre who shared their same love for the art of cinema.
Some selections of Ebert’s past reviews included showings of Selena, Belle, Columbus, American Splendor, Daughters of the Dust, Rambling Rose, The Big Lebowski among others followed afterward with a panel discussion with the film’s director.
On Saturday, one of the festival’s highlights a showing of the documentary 13th with the Oscar-nominated director, Ava DuVernay on hand to speak on the film’s topic of the U.S. criminal justice system and mass incarceration of Black and Latino citizens. Moderated by both festival producer, Chaz Ebert and Peabody-award winning director, Rita Coburn Whack (Maya Angelou: Still I Rise)—it was a compelling and revealing conversation on both DuVernay’s process of making the film and her journey from a publicist to one of the industry’s most sought-after filmmakers.
This year’s festival centered on the topics of ‘inclusion’ and more diversity in Hollywood as female directors Amma Asante (“Belle”), Julie Dash (“Daughters of the Dust”) and Martha Coolidge (“Rambling Rose”, “If These Walls Could Talk 2”).
Throughout the week, there were panel discussions including the Critics panel, Critical Mass: The Future of Film Criticism; Challenging Stigma Through the Arts and Leveling the Playing Field: Hollywood in the Time of #MeToo and #TimesUp along with a lecture about the birth of cinema.
An alumnus of the University of Illinois, Robert Ebert was a champion for great films, as well his unique ability to review works that gave readers and viewers another perspective. His no-holds-barred method created a blueprint model for many film critics and rising journalists today. His wife Chaz Ebert and her team at robertebert.com continue to honor his memory through various projects and programming to help mentor the next generation of creative talent.