The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Ebertfest day 3 showcases Black romantic comedy ‘The Best Man’

Friday night at Ebertfest, all eyes were on the 25th anniversary celebration of the Black romantic comedy “The Best Man.” The movie’s director, Malcolm D. Lee, was in attendance. 

“The Best Man” is an entertaining and light-hearted film, showcasing Black talent and comically conveying the complexity of love and friendships.

The film focuses on an author, Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs), desperately trying to hide that his new book is based loosely on the lives of his closest friends and reveals some of his biggest secrets. Stewart plans to act as best man in his friend Lance Sullivan’s (Morris Chestnut) wedding, but as the pre-release copy of the book falls into Sullivan’s hands, Stewart has to fight to save their friendship. 

Lee shared a few words before the film and participated in a panel discussion and Q&A after the showing.

“We were pretty fortunate at the time because there weren’t a lot of roles out there for African American actors where they can just be people and not the Black fists, or the Black girlfriend or the Black friend,” Lee said. “I wasn’t seeing myself represented on screen … the portrayals of educated African Americans were very archetypal and very stereotypical — they had somehow forgotten their cultural specificity … well, that wasn’t my experience, and it wasn’t the experience of people that I knew.”

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Ebertfest allowed Lee to continue to portray his own experiences and those of other Black individuals in his life, giving him the platform to share his film on the big screen 25 years after its release. 

“What a legacy this festival has, and I’m honored to be a part of it,” Lee said.  

To audience member Carolyn Randolph-Kato, “The Best Man” is about Black excellence. 

“I think what Lee talked about is that this is just a snapshot of everyday life,” Randolph-Kato said. “It’s about Black people who were navigating this new world of opportunities, trying to figure themselves out romantically, spiritually and emotionally.”

Ebertfest celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. According to Daniel Jackson, production manager of the Ebert Company, one of the festival’s goals was to select films also celebrating their 25th anniversary. 

“So far, it’s been a great film festival,” Jackson said. “We had a great opening night, and there’s been some great films we’ve been showing.”

According to Jackson, planning for the next Ebertfest starts almost immediately after the current festival ends. 

“It’s been a fabulous event,” Jackson said. “It’s been a work in progress that’s been a year-long, and this is the culmination of everything that we’ve been putting into it.”

Throughout the screening, the audience burst out with cheers and laughter, creating a light-hearted and entertaining environment. 

David Dormaun has attended Ebertfest for 23 years and said that coming to the festival eventually became a habit. 

“When Roger was here, the film and the commentary were just incredible because he was so insightful both in his selection of films and his articulateness in talking about them,” Dormaun said. “It was always intellectually and emotionally very exciting and expanding … we just got in the habit of going, and we never stopped, and it’s been wonderful.”

This year was the first year in which Dormaun had not seen any of the films shown at the festival. 

“I never come with expectations,” Dormaun said. “I am always curious to see what I’m going to see, and it’s been wonderful. This has been a great year.” 


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About the Contributor
Annisyn Krebs-Carr
Annisyn Krebs-Carr, Senior buzz Reporter
Hi, I’m Annisyn! I am currently a freshman majoring in journalism. I started with The Daily Illini in Fall 2023 as a buzz staff writer, and became Senior buzz Reporter in the spring. I’m excited to be a part of The DI editorial team, and I’m looking forward to writing more arts and entertainment content. When I’m not writing for The DI, I enjoy playing with my dogs and watching movies. For any questions or concerns feel free to contact me at my email below.
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