Ebertfest lands Spike Lee

Ebertfest lands Spike Lee

CHAMPAIGN — Spike Lee, one of the country’s most acclaimed directors, will attend the 16th Roger Ebert'st Film Festival in Champaign in late April.

Lee, also a screenwriter and producer, will appear April 25 for a 25th anniversary screening at the Virginia Theatre of his ground-breaking film “Do The Right Thing.”

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Festival emcee Chaz Ebert announced the news today on her blog, writing that her late husband was one of the first major critics to applaud “Do The Right Thing,” released in 1989. He gave the movie about racial strife in Brooklyn, N.Y., four stars.
Ebert, who died last year, later praised Lee’s handling of racial themes:

“I have been given only a few film-going experiences in my life to equal the first time I saw ‘Do the Right Thing.’ Most movies remain up there on the screen. Only a few penetrate your soul.

”In May of 1989 I walked out of the screening at the Cannes Film Festival with tears in my eyes. Spike Lee had done an almost impossible thing. He’d made a movie about race in America that empathized with all the participants. He didn’t draw lines or take sides but simply looked with sadness at one racial flashpoint that stood for many others.”

At Ebertfest April 23-27, Lee will join director Oliver Stone, who will bring “Born on the Fourth of July,” starring Tom Cruise and also an Ebert four-star movie, and director Steve James, whose “Life Itself,” a documentary based on Ebert’s memoir, will open the festival.

Also coming, Patton Oswalt, an actor, producer and comedian, with “Young Adult,” the 2011 Jason Reitman film also starring Charlize Theron and Patrick Wilson.

“I’m honored and thrilled to host Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Steve James and Patton Oswalt at Ebertfest with their amazing films,” Chaz Ebert wrote. “Roger wanted our film festival to continue and he had many discussions with me and festival director Nate Kohn  about how to keep it going. You won’t be disappointed. We have even more surprises in store.”

This will be the second Ebertfest without its namesake and co-founder. The complete Ebertfest lineup will be announced soon.

A few festival passes remain, and tickets to individual screenings go on sale starting April 1. Go to Ebertfest.com for more information or to buy passes.