Roger Ebert misses start of his 10th annual film festival

By The Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Roger Ebert’s wife, Chaz, kicked off his 10th annual film festival with an apology for holding the event without the man it’s named after.

“I’m an Ebert, but I’m no Roger Ebert,” she said Wednesday.

Ebert, 65, is recovering from a hip injury. The Chicago Sun-Times movie critic has also had a series of cancer-related surgeries in the past few years. One left him unable to speak.

“A broken hip adds to my tour of medical adventures. My current plan is to take it easy, obey the doctors’ orders and start writing reviews again,” he wrote on his blog. “In the meantime, my heart will be in Urbana.”

The crowd cheered when Chaz Ebert said her husband might be well enough to show up later for Ebertfest, which runs through Sunday.

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    “He can’t come today, but we don’t know,” she said. “You know Roger. He wants to be here.”

    Later, the crowd shouted, “Get well, Roger!”

    Ebert grew up in Champaign-Urbana and graduated from the University of Illinois.

    For the past decade, he’s held a film festival in the twin cities to highlight movies he thinks have been overlooked.

    Kenneth Branagh’s four-hour version of “Hamlet” opened this year’s festival, which also features appearances by Ang Lee, Paul Schrader, Christine Lahti, Joey Pantoliano and Aida Turturro.

    Although the leather recliner installed for Ebert last year at the rear of the Virginia Theatre remained empty, almost all the 1,500 other seats were filled.

    “And damn, I wish I could be there,” Ebert wrote.