9th Annual Festival begins with film screening tonight

9th Annual Festival begins with film screening tonight

By Bonnie Stiernberg

Movie buffs, man your microwaves. It’s time to get the popcorn ready as the 9th Annual Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival rolls into town today.

The festival, held in The Virginia Theatre, 203 W. Park Ave., will feature five days of movies that film critic and University graduate Roger Ebert believes to have been overlooked or somehow underestimated by audiences.

This year’s festival will follow a slightly different format, as Ebert recovers from recent health troubles.

“He won’t be an active host. He’ll be there as a member of the audience. He fully expects to be back as host next year,” said Nate Kohn, festival director.

Instead of finding a replacement host, organizers have altered the festival’s format.

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“There’ll be a number of different people,” Kohn said. “Rather than having one person interview guests onstage, we’re going to have panel discussions.”

The panel discussions are free and open to the public. They will take place in the Illini Union beginning Thursday and will wrap up on Saturday. Topics include the role of the film critic in distribution practices, the relationship of politics and movies and the principles of independent filmmaking.

The festival will also feature guests such as actor Alan Rickman, who will discuss “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” actress and director of “Come Early Morning” Joey Lauren Adams and director of “Holes,” Andy Davis. Associate Festival Director Mary Susan Britt is pleased with this year’s lineup.

“I’m really excited about all the movies,” she said. “They’re all so unique. I’m anxious to see ‘Come Early Morning.’ I really like Joey Lauren Adams. I loved her in ‘Chasing Amy,’ and now she’s directing ‘Come Early Morning,’ so I’m very interested in seeing that.”

Davis feels that while his film was a box office success, its appearance at the festival will bring it more adult attention. The movie, based on the famous children’s novel by Louis Sachar, was marketed to a younger audience.

“It was a big success,” Davis said. “People were surprised by how well it did, but I think it could have done a lot better because adults really seemed to like it.”

Davis, a University alumnus, is also looking forward to returning to the campus.

“I haven’t been back to Champaign since I left in 1968,” he said. “It’ll be fun to see what’s still there.”

According to Kohn, this year’s festival features more music than in years past.

“This year the silent film is being accompanied by the Champaign-Urbana Symphony,” he said. “This is the first year we’ve done that.”

In addition, two films will feature live musical performances. Singer-songwriter Jim White will perform after the screening of “Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus” on Saturday, and Strawberry Alarm Clock, the band behind the 1967 hit “Incense and Peppermints,” will be reunited onstage for the first time in nearly 40 years following the film “Beyond the Valley of Dolls” on Sunday.

Several guests, including directors Paul Cox and Werner Herzog and actor Scott Wilson will be returning to the festival.

“A lot of old friends are coming back,” Kohn said.

Britt is happy to see the guests return to the festival.

“I think that it’s great to have these guys come back and reunite with the Virginia Theatre,” she said.

The Overlooked Film Festival runs through Sunday. Festival passes are sold out, but tickets to individual films are still available and are $8 for students.