Ebertfest returns to Virginia Theatre


Photo courtesy of Ebertfest Website

University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen speaks at the 21st Ebertfest on April 10, 2019. Ebertfest will be back for its 22nd year after being canceled in 2020.

By Olivia Rosenberg, Assistant buzz Editor

The 2022 Roger Ebert Film Festival, known as Ebertfest, begins Wednesday at the Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign, where it will include a slate of film screenings and special guest appearances. 

The 22nd annual festival will mark the event’s return after being canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ebertfest was founded in 1999 by the late film critic and University of Illinois alumnus Roger Ebert and is continued on by his wife and co-founder, Chaz Ebert. 

While many selections are chosen from films that Roger has reviewed, Chaz and festival director Nate Kohn choose the newer films screened at each festival. The festival’s team then chooses the final selection. 

The University’s College of Media also contributes to the event, including the University campus and students.

Ebertfest’s mission is to recognize the films that have not garnered proper attention or recognition from critics and/or audiences. It is a way for audiences to see films otherwise overlooked by mainstream media. 

The Virginia Theatre hosts the event every year, where its 35mm, 70mm and digital projection displays the festival’s films. The theater seats 1,463 audience members and has been run by the Champaign Park District since 2000. 

This year’s festival will run from April 20 — 23. Thirteen films will be shown, including popular flicks that came out last year like “Summer of Soul,” “Nightmare Alley” and “Passing.” 

Guests include, but are not limited to, directors Guillermo Del Toro and Ramin Bahrani; co-president and co-founder of Sony Pictures Classics Michael Barker; Chicago Tribune’s film critic Michael Phillips; and actress Thora Birch. 

The late comedian Gilbert Gottfried was scheduled to appear as a guest at this year’s Ebertfest but won’t be in attendance due to his recent passing. 

On Wednesday evening, the festival will kick off with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s “Summer of Soul” at 7:00 p.m. with musical guests Ther’Up.Y, Tammy McCann and Clem Snide. 

Thursday begins with a morning screening of “The Phantom of the Open” and is followed by “The 39 Steps,” “Gilbert” and “French Exit.”

“Passing” starts Friday’s schedule, followed by “Golden Arm,” “The White Tiger” and “Ghost World.”

Saturday, the festival’s closing day, will feature “Siren of the Tropics,” “Krisha” and “Soy Cubana,” which will be followed by a performance from a Latin jazz band featuring University students. 

The final film shown during Ebertfest on Saturday night will be the cinematic black and white version of Del Toro’s award-winning film “Nightmare Alley,” which is currently sold out. 

After each of these screenings, Ebertfest has a lineup of directors, producers, actors, screenwriters, musicians and critics all scheduled as special guests to participate in Q&A sessions. 

Tickets for Ebertfest are on sale now for individual screenings, and festival passes can be purchased through the Virginia Theatre box office by calling 217-356-9063. 

Representatives from the festival were not available for comment. 


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