Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival


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Press Release


MARCH 8, 2000

Roger Ebert today announced the12 films that he will show at the second "Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival" to be held April 26-30, 2000, at the historic Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois, and at the University of Illinois.  The College of Communications, UIUC, is producing this unique event.


UIUC Journalism graduate Roger Ebert (BS ‘64), famed film critic, Pulitzer Prize winning author, host of "Roger Ebert and the Movies," and former Daily Illini Editor will personally host the festival.  The following films, selected by Ebert, represent a cross section of important cinematic works that have been overlooked by audiences, critics, and distributors.  Ebert feels strongly that these motion pictures deserve a second look and a second chance.  Toward that end, he is bringing the films and many of their producers, directors, and actors to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, to help showcase the films for general audiences, distributors, and critics from around the world.  The 12 films are listed below.  Detailed information on each film can be found on the festival website at

1.                  Sidewalk Stories (USA, 1989) is a modern-day silent movie written and directed by Charles Lane who also stars.  Filmed in black and white, the movie follows a street artist who rescues a baby after her father is murdered.  Lane is endlessly inventive in his application of silent film techniques, creating a movie that, according to Roger Ebert, “weaves a spell as powerful as it is entertaining.”

2.                  Grave of the Fireflies (Japan, 1988), directed by Isao Takahata, is a brilliant animated film about the cruelties of war.  Setsuko and Seita are brother and sister in World War II Japan who must fight for survival after the death of their parents.  A Studio Ghibli production, “Grave of the Fireflies” is a powerfully evocative and deeply moving indictment of war.

3.                  American Movie and Coven (USA, 1999).  “American Movie” is a very funny, sometimes very sad feature length documentary directed by Chris Smith about Mark Borchardt, a Wisconsin odd-job man who wants to make a movie more than anyone else in the world.  The movie Mark makes is a short film entitled “Coven,” which will screen immediately after “American Movie.”

4.                  Legacy (USA, 1999) is a feature length documentary by Tod S. Lending.  Filmed over five years, it dramatically captures the lives of three generations of African-American women as they recover from the murder of a son, break free of welfare, overcome drug addiction and escape the violence of their community. 

5.                  The Terrorist (India, 1998), directed and photographed by Santosh Sivan, is an independent Indian film that tells the compelling story of a young revolutionary suicide bomber.  Exquisitely photographed and beautifully acted — Ayesha Dharkar is remarkable in her starring role — the film examines what happens when terrorism takes on a frightening personal dimension.

6.                  The Castle (Australia, 1997), directed by Rob Sitch, is one of those comic treasures like “The Full Monty” that shows its characters in the full bloom of glorious eccentricity.  These characters have a rock-solid view of the universe and their place in it, and gaze out upon the world from the high vantage point of the home that is their castle — a castle now threatened by airport expansion.

7.                  A Woman’s Tale (Australia, 1991), directed by Paul Cox, portrays several days in the life of Martha (Sheila Florance), an old lady of great wit and courage, who faces death as she has faced everything else — on her own terms.  Roger Ebert considers Cox, long a resident of Australia, “one of the best directors of our time.”

8.                  Children of Heaven (Iran, 1997), written and directed by Majid Majidi, is very nearly a perfect movie for children, and of course that means adults will like it too.  The film is about a boy who loses his sister’s shoes and the consequences that result.  It shows us a brother and sister who love one another in a home without unhappiness.  Its sweetness and innocence appeals to all ages and all nationalities.  Free kiddie matinee.

9.                  The Last Laugh (Germany, 1924) and Un Chien Andalou (France, 1929) are both classic silent films.  “The Laugh Laugh” is considered the most power and polished of F.W. Murnau’s movies, and “Un Chien Andalou,” from Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, is a visual assault that may be the most inventive fifteen minutes of film ever shot.  Live musical accompaniment provided by the Concrete Orchestra.

10.              Deja Vu (USA, 1997), directed by Henry Jaglom, is a sophisticated love story about smart people.  Starring Victoria Foyt, Vanessa Redgrave, and Stephen Dillane, the film begins in Israel and unfolds beautifully, its heart perhaps most perfectly captured in a line from the film: “A week hasn’t gone by since I last saw her that I haven’t thought of her.  She was the love of my life.”

11.               Dark City (USA, 1998), written and directed by Alex Proyas, is a great visionary achievement, a film so original and exciting that it stirs the imagination.  Starring Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland and Jennifer Connelly, “Dark City” creates a nightmarish world with no sun and run by beings with telekinetic powers who seek the souls of humans.  Roger Ebert: “The movie is a glorious marriage of existential dread and slam-bang action.”

12.              Oklahoma! (USA, 1955), directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gordon MacRae, Gloria Grahame, Shirley Jones, and Rod Steiger, is the cinematic version of the famed Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical homage to the American West.  A landmark movie musical that uses songs and choreography to advance character and plot, “Oklahoma!” will be screened in its original 70 mm format.


All films will be shown at the historic Virginia Theatre, 203 W. Park, Champaign, IL.  Roger Ebert and guests will be on stage before and after each film and will engage the audience in discussions about the films.  Tickets are $6 for each screening or $40 for a pass for the entire festival, and are available from the Virginia Theatre box office at (217) 356-9063, the Springer Recreation Center at (217) 398-2376 or the Bresnan Meeting Center at (217) 398-2550.

In addition to screenings, there will be four academic panel discussions at the Illini Union. The first will be moderated by Roger Ebert and will feature festival film makers and scholars from UIUC:

1.   Digital vs Film: The War for the Soul of Cinema,” 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Thursday, Illini Union, General Lounge 2nd Floor North

2.   The Feature Length Documentary Film,” 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m., Thursday, Illini Union, General Lounge 2nd Floor North

3.   Looking at Looking in Overlooked Films,” 9:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m., Thursday, Illini Union, General Lounge 2nd Floor North

4.  Women and Film,”11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Thursday, Illini Union, General Lounge 2nd Floor North


"Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival" is a non-profit production of the University of Illinois College of Communications and is funded in part by the following sponsors: The News-Gazette/News Talk 1400 WDWS, American Airlines/American Eagle, Chicago Sun-Times, Northwest Airlines, Roger and Chaz Ebert, Trustee and Mrs. Roger Plummer, President and Mrs. James Stukel, Office of the Chancellor, Betsy Hendrick, Greater Champaign-Urbana Economic Partnerhsip, The Busey Family of Financial Services, Dr. Brand Fortner, chairman, Fortner Software LLC, Tony Harvey, president, Cruise Software, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, Roger and Marsha Woodbury, Adventure Travel, Inc., Robert Baird, Web site Designer , C & U Poster Advertising Company, Champaign, Park District, Champaign-Urbana MTD, The Daily Illini, The Holiday Inn Urbana-Champaign, Nancy Loch, Graphic Designer, “Micro-Film: The Magazine of Personal Cinema in Action, Net66 web hosting, The Octopus, Radisson Suite Hotel Champaign, The Planet 107.1, The Whip 98.3, WICD Channel 15 NBC, WILL Channel 12 PBS

For more information, see the website at or contact: Assistant Director Melissa McKillip at, (217)244-0552, Festival Manager Nickie Dalton at; (217)-333-2350; Fax: (217)-333-9882; or Festival Director Nate Kohn at or (706) 542-4972.