Ebertfest 2019: A Glorious Celebration of Cinema – Jennifer Merin reports

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Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, aka Ebertfest, is unique in its pure and glorious celebration of cinema.

The annual four-day program, which just completed its 21st edition, consists of but a dozen films. Ebertfest is quite compact, as film festivals go. But, this joyful movie event has enormous heart, and it emanates influence and inspires empathy far beyond Champaign, Illinois, the college community in which it makes its home and has found its soulmate.

To sum up Ebertfest, no words work better than those written by Chaz Ebert: “Over the years, Ebertfest has evolved into not only a place to celebrate cinema, but to celebrate the very best in human nature. We give ‘Humanitarian Awards’ to filmmakers who exhibit an unusually compassionate view of the world and this year, we honored Morgan Neville for his film Won’t You Be My Neighbor? about Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Additionally, we established the “Icon Award” and the inaugural award given to Rita Coburn for her film honoring icon Maya Angelou. The academic panels with the Champaign County Alliance for Inclusion and Respect contained in-depth discussions on eradicating stigma of addiction and mental and physical disabilities through the arts. The films chosen, whether domestic or foreign, result in an understanding of other peoples, other cultures, others in circumstances different from our own, with the core principles of empathy, kindness, compassion and forgiveness being woven into the fabric.” For the full report, continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).