25th anniversary of Ebertfest announces ‘Star 80’ as opening night film, ‘The Best Man’ as centerpiece

Ebertfest 25th logo

Directors Malcolm D. Lee and Lisa Cortes, actors Eric Roberts and Mariel Hemingway to attend celebration   

Additional filmmaker guests include director Diane Moore with conductor Roderick Cox

Star 80  Eric Roberts Mariel Hemingway

Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, also known as Ebertfest, announced today the 25th anniversary, running April 17-20, 2024, at the Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign, will kick off with an opening night screening of Bob Fosse’s critically acclaimed film Star 80 with stars Eric Roberts and Mariel Hemingway in attendance. Roger praised the film with a glowing 4-star review, calling it “an important movie…. Devastating, violent, hopeless, and important, because it holds a mirror up to a part of the world we live in, and helps us see it more clearly.”  Roger has praised performances by both Hemingway and Roberts over the years.

The Best Man Malcolm D. Lee

Ebertfest will showcase the 25th anniversary of writer-director Malcolm D. Lee’s wedding-themed, reunion romantic comedy The Best Man as this year’s centerpiece film with Lee coming to celebrate. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Lee with his first film which was produced by his cousin Spike Lee, in 1999, the same year as our inaugural festival,” said Ebertfest co-founder, producer and host, Chaz Ebert. “The Best Man has become a classic and introduced stars we all know today including Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard and Regina Hall, among others.” 

Lee has directed numerous crowd-pleasing comedies including Girls Trip and The Best Man Holiday.

Little Richard Lisa Cortes

Lisa Cortes, Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning producer and director, will attend Ebertfest to discuss her film Little Richard: I Am Everything, a documentary about Little Richard, the unique, flamboyant, rock ‘n’ roll icon who shaped the world of music with hits like “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally.”

Ebertfest will continue its illustrious tradition of music in films and on stage. Chaz Ebert reminds us that Ebertfest was born out of Roger’s conviction that movies can be a machine that generates empathy. 

“That conviction has evolved to what I call my FECK Principles: Forgiveness, Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness. Movies, combined with music can have a profound effect on encouraging more compassion in the world,” said Ebert. “The films and musical performances we have chosen for our 25th anniversary are ones that would make Roger proud.”  

She will introduce her new book, It’s Time to Give a FECK: Elevating Humanity Through Forgiveness, Empathy, Compassion and Kindness, which will be released on May 7, 2024.

Conducting Life Diane Moore Roderick Cox

Director Diane Moore, a filmmaker who has worked in the visual arts field for more than 15 years, and Roderick Cox, a world-renowned orchestra conductor and winner of the 2018 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award, will join the stage to discuss Conducting Life, a documentary that follows the remarkable journey of Cox as he pursues his dream to secure a top position with a major orchestra. Maestro Cox will come in from Berlin to join Ebertfest.

Additional updates to the festival program will be announced in the coming weeks.

Ebertfest passes are currently available to purchase online or by calling the box office at 217-356-9063. Individual festival passes to see all films cost $200, which includes reserved seating. New this year are 4-film passes for $70: choose between an Evening Pass or a Saturday Pass.

Roger Ebert was a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, University of Illinois journalism alumnus, and Urbana native. Ebertfest is a collaboration between his widow, Ebert Digital CEO Chaz Ebert, and the University of Illinois College of Media.

For additional information, please visit ebertfest.com and follow Ebertfest on social media:

To become a supporting Festival Sponsor please contact Molly Cornyn, the Festival Coordinator, at mcornyn2@illinois.edu.


PRESS CONTACT: Molly Cornyn, mcornyn2@illinois.edu, 217-333-1590 

View Variety’s exclusive coverage.

(Photo of Eric Roberts by Frazer Harrison, Getty Images.)