Jack Black, 'Bernie' coming to Ebertfest; Swinton, Linklater return

Jack Black, 'Bernie' coming to Ebertfest; Swinton, Linklater return

CHAMPAIGN — Tilda Swinton is back, and Jack Black is, well, Jack Black at next month's 15th annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival.

Black will be in town to talk about "Bernie," a major departure from the extroverted roles he has tended to play. In "Bernie," he was an obsequious mortician who finds his way into a widow's good graces.

"Bernie" is directed by Richard Linklater ("Dazed and Confused"), who will also be present. He previously directed Black in "School of Rock." Linklater was at the 2011 Ebertfest, as was Swinton.

Oscar winner Swinton (2007 best supporting actress for her role in "Michael Clayton") will be here to talk about the 2008 crime thriller "Julia," in which she plays an alcoholic "tough broad who is in way over her head" in Ebert's words.

This year's festival, set for April 17-21 at the historic Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign, will be one of the most star-studded ever; at the same time, it gives breathing room to overlooked films — including the documentary form and a modern silent.

Overlooked was the top criterion for Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times critic, Pulitzer Prize winner and Urbana native.

Terrence Malick's film "Days of Heaven" will open the five-day festival on April 17.

It will also be the premiere event for the newly renovated Virginia, the longtime home of an event that has drawn actors, directors and audience members from all over the world.

In describing "Days of Heaven," Ebert called the 1978 film "above all one of the most beautiful films ever made." Haskell Wexler, who shot that film (and has directed movies himself), is scheduled to attend.

Among other directors, actors, producers and other film industry folks scheduled to visit:

— Director Paul Cox, a frequent contributor to the festivities, who will bring his lyrical film on Vincent Van Gogh;

— Director Randy Moore and producer/editor Soogin Chung from "Escape from Tomorrow;" and

— Patrick Wang, who directed, co-wrote and acted a major role in 2011's "In the Family."

Ebertfest's 12 features and two shorts include a kabuki-inspired drama from Japan; a recent silent film from Spain that Ebert said deserves as much attention as 2012 best picture Oscar winner "The Artist;" and a documentary, "Not Yet Begun to Fight," about veterans overcoming their wounds through fly-fishing in Montana. A panel will include some of the veterans as well as the creative team members.

Since the 2012 festival, improvements at the Virginia have included all-new seating, extensive plaster repair and painting, installation of an elevator and other accessibility features.

The festival is an event of the College of Media at Illinois with additional support is from the Champaign County Anti-Stigma Alliance, Steak 'n Shake and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Ebert is a 1964 Illinois journalism graduate. His wife Chaz, will act as the hostess and emcee.

Tickets for individual films will go on sale April 1 at the theater box office, by calling 356-9063 or at http://www.thevirginia.org.


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