I am back home but still thinking about my spectacular trip to Champaign-Urbana for Ebertfest. You can get a glimpse of it here, with Chaz Ebert (Roger’s wife) introducing me as I introduce the film, “I Capture the Castle.”
I saw six of the films selected by Roger to share with his Ebertfest community. They were old (“Man With a Movie Camera” is a silent film from 1928) and new (“Trucker” was released last year), American and international, feature and documentary, fantasy and gritty. Every one of them was in its own way soul-enlarging and I enjoyed those I was seeing for the second time as much as those that were new to me.
I loved the panel discussions, too, both those I participated in and those I watched. But unquestionably the best part of my experience was meeting Roger’s far-flung correspondents, bloggers from around the world — Turkey, the Philippines, Egypt, China and then Canada, South Korea, England, and Mexico — who share a appreciation for movies and for good writing about movies. They are just passionate but thoughtful fans with points of view who write well and that was enough for him to reach out to them to contribute to his website. They were all there at Ebertfest, meeting each other for the first time after becoming great friends online. They very kindly treated me like a kindred spirit and I hope to stay in touch with them.
The festival is very much the reflection of its founder, hometown hero Roger Ebert. He is so good and so prominent we sometimes forget what a superb writer he is. I was very moved by his generosity of spirit in encouraging these young critics. It is his passionate engagement not just with the movies he reviews but with the world around him that is his greatest contribution. Thanks very much to Roger, Chaz, Nate Kohn, and the astoundingly organized Mary Susan Britt. See you next year!
Melissa Merli’s outstanding Ebertfest coverage for the News-Gazette.
The webcast of the full discussion I moderated of “I Capture the Castle” is online.