'Far-Flung Correspondents' made trip to Ebertfest
On April 1 Roger Ebert "Far-Flung Correspondent" Krishna Shenoi posted on YouTube a short video, claiming it was the opening scene that Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron had originally shot for his hit movie "Gravity."
The scene would "have radically changed the film. Too bad the brass at Warner Bros. rejected this version," Shenoi wrote.
It was an April fool joke. The 20-year-old student in India actually had made the video — a mashup of scenes from "Gravity" and "Superman" starring Christopher Reeve.
In the first week after he posted it, Shenoi's video received 4 million hits. As of Sunday it had 5,187,095 (and counting).
More people saw it, but not on YouTube, on Saturday night on the big screen at the Virginia Theatre, where Ebertfest showed it to a packed house before Oliver Stone's "Born on the Fourth of July."
"It's really cool. It's really exciting," Shenoi said Sunday, about all the hits his "Gravity" scene received on YouTube.
"But I'm really confused about how this works — the YouTube views."
He's posted similar videos but they've drawn only a 1,000 or so views, he said.
He figures his "Gravity" spoof received way more hits because many websites about movies posted links to it.
It's at http://bit.ly/1s9EE1b.
In 2012, Shenoi posted on YouTube his animated video tribute (youtube.com/watch?v=mabUi) to his hero filmmaker, Steven Spielberg. Spielberg saw it and sent him a handwritten fan note. Shenoi posted it online too.
Shenoi, who attended the 2014 Ebertfest, his fourth, is studying at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, India. He would like to be a filmmaker but finds it "intimidating and a little scary to have 30 people in front of you asking, 'What do we do now?'"
Shenoi is now leaning toward becoming an illustrator; he makes illustrations for rogerebert.com.
By picking Shenoi up as a "Far-Flung Correspondent" and featuring him on his website, Ebert "basically saved my life," Shenoi said.
Another Ebert "Far-Flung" correspondent who has stood out in recent years is Michael Mirasol, who now lives in Perth, Australia, where he works in information technology.
He put together the Ebertfest 2014 trailer shown each day as the festival opened.
It features clips from some of the 2014 movies including the Ebert bio "Life Itself," plus earlier footage of Ebert talking about how movies, when they are good, can be a civilizing force. The trailer is at vimeo.com/88336503/.
Mirasol, who's 39, has attended Ebertfest three times. He missed last year because his wife gave birth to their second child around the time the festival was starting, three weeks after Ebert died.
"Last year the other Far-Flung Correspondents who came had their closure. This one has been mine," Mirasol said.
Even though he had already seen half of the 12 movies shown this year, Mirasol traveled here from Down Under to see all of the movies on the Virginia's big screen with the Eberfest audience, which to many has become a sort of family.
He is pleased that more young people seem to be gravitating to the festival. In the past, he said, the audiences have been made up primarily of "old-timers." (He said that to me by prefacing his remarks with "no offense but."
His favorite film this year: "'Life Itself' because Roger meant so much to me," followed by "Short Term 12" and "Wadjda."
Mirasol, a native of the Philippines, writes about the movies for rogerebert.com and for a number of other websites, for free.