Film festival “Ebertfest” back to its in-person edition in Champaign
By Manu Ferreira
Movie lovers from all over the country will be reunited in Champaign for the 22nd Ebertfest. Starting next Wednesday, April 20th, the traditional film festival returns to its annual in-person edition at the Virginia Theater after two years.
To celebrate its comeback, the event features award-winning movies, discussions with filmmakers, music presentations, and other unique experiences for the public.
“We usually have about 12 movies every festival. This time we have four music performances that are integrated into the festival. And a lot of the movies are about comedy or about music. So, we wanted to return with a kind of a joyous event,” says Andy Hall, the Assistant Festival Director.
The list includes “Soy Cubana” by Jeremy Ungar, “Nightmare Alley” by Guillermo Del Toro, the documentary “Summer of Soul”, and a silent movie that will be screened along with a full live orchestra.
“The Chicago Mob and Orchestra directed by Renee Baker will join us this year on Saturday morning to score the movie “Siren of the Tropics”, which is a Josephine Baker movie from the 20s,” explains Hall.
The Virginia Theater is all ready to receive the public. The space was recently renovated. “During COVID, when we were shut down, we put in a new sound system and a new climate control system for the auditorium. Both of those were pretty big projects,” affirms Mitch Marlow, the Virginia Theatre’s PR Manager.
Since we are coming back from a pandemic, producers are taking one safety measure to make the audience more comfortable. “We decided to have empty seats between groups. So, people will feel that there is still a little bit of space between them and strangers that they might meet at the event,” explains Andy Hall.
Mitch Marlow says the expectation is that the Ebertfest will be well attended. “One of the films is already sold out and the other ones are getting close.”
Despite all excitement of having the festival back, an unfortunate news: the comedian Gilbert Gottfried, one of the headline guests, passed away this week.
“We are devastated. After talking to him for so long and looking forward so much to having him with us at the festival. But we are still very honored and privileged to have the movie 'Gilbert' scheduled at the event. We are excited to have the director with us still to talk about the person Gilbert was,” declares Hall.
The event’s producers also found a way to honor the comedian. “We are dedicating the whole festival to the memory of Gilbert Gottfried this year,” reveals.
Ebertfest will happen from April 20 to 23, 2022. Tickets and festival passes are available on the website www.thevirginia.gov. University of Illinois students have a special discount.
For more details, visit the website www.ebertfest.com.