Image by Kagan McLeod, courtesy of Ebertfest.com
To a certain breed of film nerd (myself included), the yearly unveiling of the Ebertfest lineup is a time of great excitement and just a little chin scratching. And, true to form, the newly revealed list of films/guests scheduled for this April’s Ebertfest is sure to raise plenty of yays and maybe only a couple ehs. Such is the spice and homespun charm of this very unusual film festival. Beyond a couple of E-fest programming staples, say, including at least one classic and one or two Africa-related VERY SERIOUS dramas (this year, Citizen Kane and Kinyarwanda, respectively), there’s really no way of guessing what will turn up. These are films Ebert digs, period, and this festival in his hometown of Champaign, IL is his equivalent of the cool grad student deejaying for a party of adoring underclassmen.
Screenings generating the most buzz so far are 2011’s fabulously unsettling Take Shelter, with actor Michael Shannon and director Jeff Nichols in the house for a Q&A (although I tend to think of Ebertfest Q&A more as Kn’A) and 2009’s indie Big Fan featuring a Q&A with star actor/comedian Patton Oswalt. Oswalt’s pulling double duty at the fest, also hosting a separate, free late night screening (at the nearby university’s Foellinger Auditorium) of a film he handpicked: the 1949 Alec Guinness comedic gem Kind Hearts and Coronets. According to Ebert, when Oswalt agreed to attend with Big Fan, “he went one additional step (saying): ‘I’d like to personally choose a film to show to the students, and discuss it.'” Ebert, forever a film professor at heart, was quick to comply. Read more »