Roger Ebert's passing left a hole in the world of film criticism, but his legacy will never die. "Roger, you would love Ebertfest 2016," his widow, Chaz Ebert, wrote in her blog. The festival's programmers have stayed true to his vision, curating a diverse and interesting lineup in his honor.
If you can't attend Ebertfest at the historic Virginia Theater in Champaign this month, maybe you can watch from your home theater. Some of the fest's featured titles are available through the library.
Roger Ebert used to make overlooked films the heart of his festival, and Eve's Bayou fits this category. This lesser-known film about a girl who discovers a family secret in 1960s Louisiana features excellent performances, including one by Samuel L. Jackson, and an evocative setting. It deserves a wider audience.
At least one genuine classic typically plays at Ebertfest, offering viewers the chance to see it through new eyes. The Third Man, which many cinephiles know as the film where a novelist played by Orson Welles investigates the mysterious death of a friend, comes to life on a huge theater screen with film scholars discussing it afterward. Watch for discussions on the Ebertfest YouTube channel.
Underrated contemporary films are also a success at Ebertfest. The festival opens this year with Crimson Peak, the latest dark horror fantasy tale from Guillermo del Toro. Ebert greatly admired del Toro's work, and the programmers were confident that he would have lauded this bold beginning.