When I realized that the Hawaii International Film Festival would be on my festival circuit this year, one of my first thoughts was, “Won’t Ebert be there?” For years, famous film critic Roger Ebert has been an annual guest of honor at the festival. But, as many film fans know, he’s recovering from cancer and various surgeries. When Ebert sent fihis first message out to fans, he noted that he would be up for covering the Oscars and Cannes, next year. But, alas, no Hawaii. Lou Harry at Variety files a report on the missing link at this year’s Hawaii festival:
Chicago Sun-Times critic and famed thumb-raiser Roger Ebert has been a mainstay at the Hawaii International Film Festival nearly every year since 1984 — when he was called as a replacement for the previous year’s guest critic, the late Gene Siskel.
This year, however, Ebert’s battle with cancer will keep him from leaving the Windy City for the Land of the Lei. He will be missed at the festival, organizers and attendees say. The Pulitzer winner’s boostering not only has helped make HIFF a major annual event on the islands, but has also helped validate the fest internationally.
“His attendance and participation early on really helped to lend an air of credibility to HIFF,” says Michael Tsai, who has covered the festival for the Honolulu Advertiser. “Ebert was one of the few national critics to pick up on the growing importance of Asian cinema in the ’80s and ’90s, and his continued presence has helped to maintain that credibility even during a few rough years.”