Steve James’ documentary, “Life Itself,” which survey’s Roger Ebert’s life and work while following him in the months before his death, is bound to provoke strong emotions in anyone who watches it, and that’s especially true at film festivals, where the audience cares passionately about what Ebert stood for and many viewers came into contact with the man himself. That was certainly true of the Sundance premiere, where a young man in the audience said of Ebert, “He saved my life.” But it’s doubtful any screening will be as memorable as the one that took place on Wednesday as the opening-night event of Ebertfest, in the first program planned after his death. (Ebert died shortly before last year’s festival, which became a sort of extended impromptu wake.)
“We’ve had some great screenings of the movie,” James said in the Q&A afterwards, “and none can compare to this.”
The festival has posted both the Q&A and the opening remarks that preceded the screening to EbertFest’s YouTube page, which will continue to add new live streams and archived videos through the festival’s conclusion on Sunday. (Already up, Patton Oswalt on “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3,” a Q&A with “Short Term 12’s” Brie Larson and Keith Stanfield, and a panel discussion called “Reimagining Filmmaking for the Digital Age,” with James, Larson, Oswalt, David Bordwell, Jem Cohen and Haifaa al-Mansour.)
Here’s the Q&A, with Chaz Ebert, Steve James and Bill Nack.
And here’s Ebert and James’ introduction: