Sadly, this is the first year the late Roger Ebert won’t be attending his very own Ebertfest. And so the folks at his namesake Illinois festival have put together a great lineup for this year’s 16th annual edition, which will go down in Champaign-Urbana April 23-27.
The fest will open with Steve James‘ Ebert doc “Life Itself,” with a selection of indie film favorites from 2013, new classics and a tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman to follow. Chaz Ebert will return as emcee.
Comprised of footage from the final months of Ebert’s life, plus material from his memoir of the same name, “Life Itself” premiered at Sundance, where there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. James, who will attend the festival, also directed the classic basketball doc “Hoop Dreams,” one of Ebert’s favorite films of the 90s. (Steve James discusses “Life Itself” in our video interview here.)
Directors Spike Lee and Oliver Stone will attend, bringing two of their most politically charged films to the fest, respectively — Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” and Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July,” both on Ebert’s top 10 list in 1989.
Other guests expected to attend include Ebert fave Ramin Bahrani (writer/director of “At Any Price“), Patton Oswalt (star of “Young Adult,” also screening) and 2013 awards season underdog Brie Larson (of “Short Term 12“). Director Jem Cohen will also bring his wonderful “Museum Hours” to the festival.
More films on the schedule include “Wadjda,” shortlisted for the 2014 Foreign Language Oscar, and “Capote.” All the films will be screened at the newly renovated 1,500-seat Virginia Theatre, a 1920s-era movie palace. Here’s the full lineup. Read our tribute to Ebert, who died in April 2013.