The documenatary about Roger Ebert's life entitled “Life Itself” makes its local premeire Wednesday, opening the 16th annual ‘Ebertfest’ in Champaign. Director Steve James says it's not the film that he, Roger, and wife Chaz Ebert orginally envisioned.
During an interview on last week's 'Focus' program, James told Illinois Public Media’s Jeff Bossert that because Roger’s health took an unexpected took a turn for the worse during filming, ‘Life Itself’, became partly about death.
During a presentation in 2005, when a star was dedicated in his name outside Chicago Theater, Ebert said movies helped him empathize with the lives of others.
"We are born with a certain package, we are who we are," he said. "Where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We're kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civiliziation and growth is to be able to reach out and emphathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are a like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams, and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us."
"I think (Ebert) was able to look at his own life, and all of the struggles that he went through, and the adventures he had, and he translated that experience to the movies," said James.
'Life Itself', which garnered rave reviews after its screening at the Sundance Film Festival, is expected to begin its run in theaters July 4th. It's also just been selected for the Cannes Film Festival in May, according to the the website DNA Info Chicago.
After he lost his voice, some say film critic Roger Ebert became an even better writer, pouring all his efforts into movie reviews and other columns. As he further mastered his craft, legendary writer, historian, actor and broadcaster Studs Terkel sent him a note about his ‘new’ voice. “This – what you write now, it’s more than about movies. Yes, it’s about the movies but there is something added. A new REFLECTION on life itself.”
Those last words became the title for Roger Ebert’s 2011 memoir, and is now the title of a new documentary about his life. Steven Zailian, screenwriter for ‘Schindler’s List” among other films, first approached director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, 2005) in late 2012 about the project. When James first met with Chaz and Roger about the direction the film would take, no one could have predicted he would pass away just five months later.
During this Focus interview, Jeff Bossert talks with filmmaker Steve James and Chaz Ebert about capturing Roger’s life, and his death, on film.
From WILL - News Local/State - April 04, 2014 4:59 PM
Pulitzer Prize winning film critic, screenwriter and journalist Roger Ebert will be remembered as one of the greatest film critics of all time. His mark on the cinema, our culture and our community are undeniable. This hour on Focus, guest host Jeff Bossert talks with Chicgao Tribune film critic Michael Phillips. Phillips filled in for Roger on "At the Movies" when he first became ill and later took over the show. We'll also hear from several members of the Champaign-Urbana community and a long-time Ebertfest volunteer.
Did you know and love Roger? What did he mean to you? To our community? We want to hear from you this hour on Focus.
A new local WILL-TV special, Ebert Remembered, airing at 8 pm Thursday, April 18, will highlight excerpts of WILL-TV interviews with Roger Ebert in which he talks about his childhood in Urbana, his experience at the University of Illinois and his role as a movie critic.