Melissa Merli's Art Beat: Documentary has me pumped up for Ebertfest

Watching Shatterglass Studios' 2012 Ebertfest documentary sure whets my appetite for the 2013 festival.

Directors, actors, cinematographers and film buffs, many of whom attend the festival each year, talk about the event as a family ritual, an amazing gathering of the tribe and unlike any other film festival they've attended.

The perky Associated Press movie critic Christy Lemire mentions the warm vibe effortlessly created by Chaz and Roger Ebert and the others who bring us Roger Ebert's Film Festival every year. And Australian director Paul Cox says he feels his heart blossom at Ebertfest.

Luke Boyce of Shatterglass directed and edited the 10-minute documentary. As usual, he did a great job. Technically, the piece is superb, with well-lit and sharply focused shots of talking heads; artsy footage of film projectors and reels and of a few of the movies being shown; nice, spontaneous festival moments; and a time-lapse showing the 1,500-seat Virginia Theatre filling up.

And there is among other scenes and interviews footage of people watching, raptly, in the darkened theater.

I didn't see myself, but I did spot old friends Herbert Marder and Glen Davies. And Betsy Hendrick, a longtime friend of Ebert's and one of the many festival sponsors, makes a brief appearance, sans words but with a big smile.

Shatterglass Studios, a film production company in Champaign, has made two Ebertfest documentaries and will do one every year.

Brett Hays, who produces them, said Shatterglass is working on another Ebertfest project as well. It's related to the fact this is the 15th year for the film festival, a special event of the University of Illinois College of Media, Ebert's alma mater.

The 2013 Ebertfest — I can't wait! — will be April 17-21, again at the Virginia, which is undergoing further renovations and will open shortly before the big event. Judging from photographs News-Gazette photographers have taken, Ebert calls the restoration of the vintage Virginia "a thing of beauty."

The famed and trusted film critic, along with festival director Nate Kohn, will announce the 2013 festival lineup in March. Tickets to the individual movies go on sale starting April 1: $14 for adults and $12 for senior citizens and students.

Festival passes, which get you into all the screenings (usually 12 and often more) are $145 each and may be purchased by calling 356-9063.

As of Thursday, 200 or so passes remained; they are usually snapped up quickly after Ebert announces the films.

So hurry if you don't have one!

More movie news

We all pretty much know that the extremely talented (and nice and generous) director Ang Lee is an alumnus of the UI Department of Theatre.

Well, so is David Magee, who is nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for "Life of Pi," which Lee directed. Lee also received a nomination for his direction of "Pi," which I enjoyed considerably more than I had expected. I saw it in 3-D.

"Life of Pi," based on Canadian writer Yann Martel's novel of the same title, has 11 Oscar nominations.

I hope to snag an interview with Magee before the Academy Awards presentation airs Feb. 24 on ABC. So stay tuned.

News-Gazette staff writer Melissa Merli can be reached at 351-5367 or mmerli@news-gazette.com. Her blog is at http://www.news-gazette.com/blogs/art-and-about.

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