15th annual Ebertfest to go on with Chaz Ebert as emcee

Chaz Ebert will be here to emcee her husband’s 15th annual festival at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign.

“As of now, she will be here, and the festival will go on pretty much as planned,” festival director Nate Kohn said Friday morning, a day after Roger Ebert’s death in Chicago.

Roger Ebert’s Film Festival will take place April 17-21 at the Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign, with academic panel discussions on the University of Illinois campus.

Kohn also said it’s too late now to plan a special tribute to Mr. Ebert for the festival, but that he and other organizers have planned a “surprise,” mainly in honor of the festival’s 15th anniversary.

Ebertfest is a special event of the UI College of Media, and Dean Jan Slater said the five-day event will continue in coming years, with Chaz Ebert’s involvement.

Asked whether Mr. Ebert had pre-selected movies for future festivals, Kohn said not specifically but that each year he and Mr. Ebert would come up with a list of 50 to 100 movies that they would want to show at that year’s festival.

“Then we narrowed it down to 12,” he said. “There are at least 500 to 1,000 films that Roger wanted to show at the festival. He’s going to be programming the festival for a long time.”

Each year the festival presents 12 to 14 movies, and in recent years, a few shorts as well. The 2013 festival has a 12-movie lineup, from documentaries to a Spanish silent film to Terence Malick’s epic  “Days of Heaven,” which opens the festival.

Kohn, who like Mr. Ebert is an Urbana native and a UI College of Media alumnus, said he has been moved by all the comments about Mr. Ebert and his legacy that people have posted on social-media websites and that have appeared in more traditional media.

“Even Barack Obama’s heartfelt statement released yesterday was so incredibly moving,” Kohn said.

Though Kohn and others realized Mr. Ebert had been ill in recent months, his death at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago hit Kohn, as well as others, “really, really hard.”

“As you can imagine, a lot of stuff has been very last-minute this time around,” Kohn said. “The festival will be ready to go, though. As we say every year, we expect it to be the best ever.”
 

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