Chaz, Kohn hand-pick films true to vision

Festival Director Nathaniel Kohn and Chaz Ebert have worked throughout the last year to hand-pick the films shown at Ebertfest. Kohn said the process of picking the films is ongoing, and many factors are considered when choosing the films, which are announced in March. 

Some of the film choices come from lists that Roger Ebert had put together before his death in 2013, he said. 

“Roger, Chaz and I had an informal growing list of films we were considering for the festival. We have shown some films from that list, and will continue to do so. But the majority of the films we showed last year and will show this year are newer films and are not on those lists,” Kohn wrote in an email. 

Mary Susan Britt, the associate festival director, stated that it is important to the festival staff that the films remain true to Roger’s vision. 

“The 12 films screened during the five days represent a cross-section of important cinematic works overlooked by audiences, critics and/or distributors,” she wrote in an email. 

Although Roger did not leave any notes or an explanation for why he chose certain films on the existing list, Kohn said that he and Chaz worked to pick films that are true to Roger’s vision for the festival. 

“(The films) explore the human condition, are empathetic, allowing us to spend time in an unfamiliar world or with people who might not be like us,” Kohn said. 

Kohn said that regular festival attendees do not need to worry about the list of movies running out in the near future. There are multiple emails from Roger in which he lists many movies that he hoped would be shown at future festivals. 

Outside factors, such as current events or themes in the news, can also influence the films chosen for the year’s festival. 

“Older films sometimes come back into currency, given where society, culture and the news are in the present moment. For example, last year we thought that ‘Do the Right Thing’ and ‘Born on the Fourth of July’ had a particular relevance to issues that were in the public sphere last year,” Kohn said.

Once the films have been chosen, festival staff ensure the choices are widely publicized. Kohn said that he has personally watched many of the films on the list, and is excited for the showings of some of his favorites this year.

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