Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. He was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize (in 1975) and partnered with fellow Chicago film critic Gene Siskel in a movie review show from 1975 to 1999. After Siskel’s death in 1999, he continued the show with various critics before partnering with fellow Chicago film critic Richard Roeper from 2000 to 2006. After various surgeries from 2006-2008, Ebert lost his voice and no longer reviewed films on television, though he continued to write reviews until his death.
In 1999, Ebert began a non-competitive film festival in Champaign, Illinois. He had grown up in the neighboring town of Urbana and had received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois in 1964. He chose to host the entire festival at the Virginia Theatre, a historic movie house built in 1921. It was Ebert’s intention that all festival attendees see all of the films in a single theatre in order to create a sense of community among film lovers. The festival has continued since his death with the assistance of his wife Chaz and the University of Illinois College of Media.
For the first several years, the festival was known as ‘Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival’ as it was intended to highlight films that didn’t receive the attention they deserved when they released, or forgotten or neglected in the years since their release. However, this was not the case for every film, and ‘Overlooked’ was dropped from the festival’s name in 2008.
In the early years of the festival, films in the 70mm format were sometimes chosen for opening night because of that format. The standard film format (before digital film-making became common) was 35mm, and Ebert felt that the 70mm format allowed for a way to address a grander artistic vision and though not overlooked, these 70mm films deserved to be shown on screen for later generations, especially as digital films become the norm. The analog-digital transition occurred later in film than it had in music, but the arguments about the relative merits of analog vs. digital are similar.
Most of the screenings are accompanied by question-and-answer sessions or panel discussions with directors, actors, writers and producers. In later years there have usually been pre-festival and post-festival screenings on special topics, often in co-operation with various non-profit organizations. This list focuses exclusively on the formal opening night films.
The list is presented in reverse chronological order, with the most recent Festival at the top and the first Festival at the bottom (The 70mm films on the list are: 2001 A Space Odyssey; Patton; Lawrence of Arabia; My Fair Lady; Hamlet; Pink Floyd The Wall;Read less