The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Ebertfest 2011 Aims to Warm Your Heart

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 22, 2011 8:34PM

Hilde Back
A helpful Web 1.0-style counter at the bottom of reminds you that there's only 36 days until the 13th Annual Ebertfest (formerly the Overlooked Film Festival). A glance at the recently-released schedule verifies that it's time to make plans to be in Champaign April 27-May 1.

This year's lineup seems aimed directly at your heartstrings. Start with A Small Act, a documentary about how Chris Mburu, after attending Harvard and becoming a human rights lawyer, tracked down the anonymous donor whose $15 monthly donations allowed him to attend primary and high school despite an impoverished upbringing in Kenya. The donor, Holocaust survivor Hilde Back, will be present at the screening. An inspired double feature of Umberto D and My Dog Tulip is capital-G Guaranteed to bring any dog lover to tears. Hollywood legend Norman Jewison will be on hand for the screening of his 1994 romantic comedy starring Marissa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr., Only You. The fest will also be the U.S. premiere of Life, Above All, an Ebert-professed tear jerker about a 12-year-old girl in a South African township who must hold her family together after the death of her sister. Even Ebert's choice of a silent movie for this year's fest Fritz Lang's landmark Metropolis accompanied by the 3-piece Alloy Orchestra, is epically schmaltzy.

The star power will be provided by Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton, who will be there for the screening of her 2009 Italian-language film (and Chicagoist fave) I Am Love. The ever-talky Richard Linklater will be discussing his 2009 feature, Me and Orson Welles, whose astonishing impersonation of Welles by actor Christian McKay is alone worth the price of admission. Well-regarded indies such as Tiny Furniture, and Leaves of Grass fill out the bill. The festival wraps up with a screening of poetry slam documentary Louder than a Bomb with directors Jon Siskel (nephew of the late Gene) and Greg Jacobs and producer Kevin Coval, as well as a live performance by five poets.

Festival passes are sold out. Individual tickets ($13 for adults and $11 for students or senior citizens) will go on sale starting April 4. To buy tickets call the Virginia Theatre box office, 217-356-9063.