Ebertfest to continue despite passing of its namesake

by Bob Deutsch

The latEbertfest to continue despite passing of its namesakee Roger Ebert may be gone, but the festival in his name will still be occurring later this month.

The recent death of iconic movie critic and writer Roger Ebert took many by surprise, despite his lingering illness and an announcement of a “leave of presence” on his official blog just days before. A festival started by and named after him that takes place in his hometown of Chicago will still be occurring on the originally established five day-schedule, from Wednesday the 17th to Sunday the 21st of this month. The symbolic effects of his death have radiated throughout pop culture and the industry, reflecting the high standard of journalism he carried with him and the huge role he played in the history of the medium.

Ebert had begun doing fewer and fewer reviews on his site, giving more space to friends and fellow critics. Even so, he was an industrious and productive writer to the end, tweeting, blogging and reviewing even after cancer complications and surgery resulted in his being unable to speak. A fiercely opinionated person in all areas, Ebert was very vocal in his skepticism of 3D, which he noted did occasionally reach excellence when utilized properly by filmmakers like Ang Lee and James Cameron.

The film festival that bears his name has been in operation for 15 years and will be hosted by his widow Chaz, and will screen such films as “Days of Heaven,” “Bernie” and “Julia.”

In a piece for the Daily Illini, director of the Virginia Theatre, where the festival will take place, David Bentz, expressed his sorrow for the event.

“It’s going to be an extremely poignant moment when almost 1,500 people come into this room and Roger Ebert isn’t able to be sitting with us,” he said.

As many look to honor and pay tribute to one of the last members of an older school of film criticism, it may prove to be a full season for like-minded festivals, with mourning fans keeping the tradition alive by watching films on both indoor and outdoor screens.

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