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Roger Ebert returns to the UI with second 'Overlooked Film Fest'

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor
(217) 333-2177;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Later this month, parts of the University of Illinois campus and community will resemble a mini-Cannes -- without the mountains and Mediterranean, to be sure -- but jumping nevertheless with film screenings, stars, filmmakers, producers and directors, and of course, Mr. Two-Thumbs-Up himself, film critic Roger Ebert.

Ebert's upcoming second annual and ironically named "Overlooked Film Festival" is set for April 26-30. Like last year's event, this year's festival will feature a cross-section of films the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic regards as "important but overlooked by audiences, critics and distributors."

Fourteen films will be shown in 12 screenings, and two dozen producers, directors and actors will take part in the offbeat, off-the-beaten path festival created by Ebert, a UI journalism graduate, TV host, newspaper columnist and author.

Like the first festival, the second is unlikely to be overlooked. Last year some 8,000 film aficionados from Boston to Los Angeles to Australia jammed the inaugural festival at the UI and the historic Virginia Theatre in Champaign. The festival is a non-profit production of the UI College of Communications.

Ebert said he believes all of the selected films "deserve a second look and a second chance." They will get that second look through screenings and through four academic panel discussions, moderated by Ebert and featuring festival filmmakers and scholars.

Topics include: Digital vs. Films: The War for the Soul of Cinema, and The Feature-Length Documentary Film, 10 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m., respectively, April 27; and Looking at Looking in Overlooked Films, and Women and Film, 9-10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., respectively, April 28. Panels, which are free and open to the public, will be held in the second floor general lounge, Illini Union, 1401 W. Green St., Urbana.

All films will be shown at the Virginia Theatre, 203 W. Park St., Champaign. Ebert and guests will be on stage before and after each film, and will engage the audience in discussions about the films.

The films, as described by festival organizers, and screening times and dates:

Thursday, April 27, 4 p.m., 7 p.m., and 10 p.m., respectively:

"Sidewalk Stories" (USA, 1989), a modern-day silent movie.

"Grave of the Fireflies" (Japan, 1988), a brilliant, deeply moving animated indictment of war.

"American Movie" and "Coven" (two films, USA, 1999), the first is a very funny, sometimes very sad, feature-length documentary about the making of the second movie "Coven."

Friday, April 28, 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m.:

"Legacy" (USA, 1999), filmed over five years, the documentary captures the lives of three generations of African-American women as they recover from three crises.

"The Terrorist" (India, 1998), an independent Indian film, exquisitely photographed and beautifully acted, that tells the compelling story of a young revolutionary suicide bomber.

"The Castle" (Australia, 1997), a comic treasure that, like "The Full Monty," shows its characters in the full-bloom of glorious eccentricity.

"A Woman's Tale" (Australia, 1991) portrays several days in the life of an old lady of great wit and character, who faces death as she has faced everything else ? on her own terms.

Sat., April 29, 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m., and 10 p.m.:

"Children of Heaven" (Iran, 1997), a very nearly perfect movie for children -- and adults -- about a boy who loses his sister's shoes and the consequences

. "The Last Laugh" (Germany, 1924) and "Un Chien Andalou" (France, 1929), classic silent films. The first is considered F.W. Murnau's most powerful and polished movie, the second, perhaps the most inventive 15 minutes of film ever shot. Live musical accompaniment by the Concrete Orchestra.

"DŽjˆ Vu" (USA, 1997), a sophisticated love story about smart people.

"Dark City" (USA, 1998), a great visionary achievement that is so original and exciting that it shakes the imagination.

Sun., April 30, 1 p.m.:

"Oklahoma" (USA, 1955), the cinematic version of the Broadway musical homage to the American West. The landmark movie musical will be screened in its original 70-mm format.

Invited guests, including actors, writers, producers, directors and studio owners: Mark Borchardt, director and star of "Coven"; also stars in "American Movie."

Mark Burton, executive producer of "The Terrorist"; has produced several other films made in India, including "Paradesi" (1998) and "Judaai" (1997).

Nickcole Collins, the young narrator of "Legacy," a documentary about her family. Concrete Orchestra, providing live accompaniment.

Paul Cox, director, writer, and producer of "A Woman's Tale." Cox's other directorial credits include "Molokai: The Story of Father Damien" (1999), "The Hidden Dimension" (1997), "Lust and Revenge" (1996) and "Exile" (1994); born in the Netherlands, he lives and works in Australia. Ayesha Dharkar, star of "The Terrorist."

Victoria Foyt, star and co-writer of "DŽjˆ Vu"; also starred in and co-wrote "Last Summer in the Hamptons" (1995) and "Babyfever" (1994).

Michael Hirsh, producer of "The Castle"; also an actor, editor and television personality in Australia.

Henry Jaglom, director and co-writer of "DŽjˆ Vu"; has directed numerous films that include "Last Summer in the Hamptons", "Babyfever," "Lucky Ducks" (1993), "Venice/Venice" (1992) and "Eating" (1990).

Charles Lane, director, writer and star of "Sidewalk Stories"; also directed "Hallelujah" (1993) and "True Identity" (1991) and has acted in numerous films, including "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" (1995)

. Tod S. Lending, director and producer of "Legacy," and head of Nomadic Pictures, a Chicago-based production house and an Emmy Award-winning writer/producer/director for the ABC afterschool special, "Shades of a Single Protein."

Rita Nachtmann, Los Angeles-based actress, screenwriter and playwright; the 1997 winner of the PEN West Award for her Play "How I Spent My Life's Vacation."

Larry Meistrich, founder and CEO of The Shooting Gallery, the New York-based independent movie studio that has made such films as "Sling Blade" (1996), "24 Hour Woman" (1999), "The Minus Man" (1999) and "You Can Count on Me" (2000), which won the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Sarah Price, producer of "American Movie"; also was the sound recordist on "American Movie" and "The Big One" (1997).

Alex Proyas, director of "Dark City"; also directed "The Crow" (1994). He will participate in the festival screening of his film by telephone from Sydney, Australia.

Mike Shank, one of the stars of "Coven" and "American Movie."

Rob Sitch, director of "The Castle"; well-known television performer in Australia. He recently directed "The Dish" (2000), starring Sam Neill.

Chris Smith, director of "American Movie" and creator of the "mockumentary" American Job" (1995). He was cinematographer on Michael Moore's "The Big One."

Tim Zinnemann is the son of Fred Zinnemann, director of "Oklahoma," and joined his father on the set of the film and was cast as an extra. He produced "As I See It," a tribute to his father, which he will screen and discuss during the festival.

Tickets, which are $6 for each screening or $40 for the entire festival, are available at the theater box office at (217) 356-9063; the Springer Cultural Center, (217) 398-2376 and the Bresnan Meeting Center, (217) 398-2550. Tickets also can be purchased online at the festival Web site ( For more information, contact Melissa McKillip at

The festival is funded by: The News-Gazette, American Airlines/American Eagle, Chicago Sun-Times, Northwest Airlines, Roger and Chaz Ebert, Trustee and Mrs. Roger Plummer, UI President and Mrs. James Stukel, UI Office of the Chancellor, Betsy Hendrick, Greater Champaign-Urbana Economic Partnership, The Busey Family of Financial Services, Dr. Brand Fortner (chairman of Fortner Software LLC), Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, Roger and Marsha Woodbury, Adventure Travel, Robert Baird, C&U Poster Advertising, Champaign Park District, Champaign-Urbana MTD, The Daily Illini, The Holiday Inn (Champaign-Urbana), Nancy Loch, "Micro-Film: The Magazine of Personal Cinema in Action," Net66 Web hosting, News Talk 1400 WDWS/Lite Rock 97.5, The Octopus, Radisson Suite Hotel (Champaign), The Planet 107.1, The WHHP 98.3, WICD-Channel 15, WILL-Channel 12.