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2014 Ebertfest Slate Announced, Will Open with Steve James’ Doc ‘Life Itself’

2014 Ebertfest Slate Announced, Will Open with Steve James' Doc 'Life Itself'

It’s been nearly a year since the death of Roger Ebert, but Ebertfest is still going strong, and this year gives the festival a new way to honor the late critic.

The 16th annual Ebertfest will open with Steve James’s “Life Itself,” the documentary based on Ebert’s memoir. James was first brought to national attention when Ebert and his “At the Movies” co-host Gene Siskel named his documentary “Hoop Dreams” as the best film of 1994.

The lineup includes Ebert favorites such as Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” Ramin Barhani’s “Goodbye Solo,” and Oliver Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July.” All three filmmakers will be in attendance, along with actress Brie Larson and her “Short Term 12” co-star Keith Stanfield, comedian/actor Patton Oswalt, and New Orleans piano bluesman Henry Butler.

Oswalt, whose film “Big Fan” played at Ebertfest 2012, will present his 2011 film “Young Adult” and host a free screening of “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” for University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students the day before the festival. Larson and Stanfield will be present for a screening of “Short Term 12,” while Butler will arrive on the final day of the festival to play several James Booker songs following a screening of “Bayou Maharajah,” a documentary about the troubled singer’s life.

Other films include “Wadjda,” the first Saudi Arabian film directed by a woman, Jem Cohen’s “Museum Hours,” Ann Hui’s “A Simple Life,” a screening of the 1924 silent film “He Who Gets Slapped” with live accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra, and “Capote,” featuring the Oscar-winning performance of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, whom Ebert greatly admired and said he would have picked to star in a film version of his life.

The festival, which is run and emceed by Ebert’s widow Chaz Ebert, will run from April 23-27 in Champaign, IL. All films will screen inside the 1,500 seat Virginia Theatre, a recently restored 1920s-era movie palace. 

Tickets for individual films will go on sale April 1, through The Virginia Theatre’s box office or website. The full schedule is below, along with the films’ corresponding guests.

7:30 PM Life Itself Steve James, director
1:00 PM Museum Hours Jem Cohen, director
4:00 PM Short Term 12 Brie Larson, actor
9:00 PM Young Adult Patton Oswalt, actor
1:00 PM He Who Gets Slapped Alloy Orchestra
4:00 PM Capote
8:30 PM Do the Right Thing Spike Lee, director
11:00 AM Wadjda Haifaa-Al-Mansour, director
2:00 PM A Simple Life Ann Hui, director
5:00 PM Goodbye Solo Rahmin Bahrani, director
9:00 PM Born on the Fourth of July Oliver Stone, director
Noon Bayou Maharajah Lily Keber, director
Nate Kohn, producer
Henry Butler, musician

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