Ebert Symposium 2023 to address documentary, violence, and the media

Ebert Symposium 2023

This year's Chaz and Roger Ebert Symposium will feature a film screening, keynote speaker, and two roundtable discussions that address the theme of "Documentary, Violence, and the Media." The events, which are free and open to the public, are presented by the Roger Ebert Center for Film Studies.

Chaz Ebert’s beloved grandson, Joseph London Smith, was tragically and unintendedly the victim of gun violence in Atlanta, Georgia, in September 2022. In dedication to his memory, the Ebert Symposium will explore the power of cinema to mediate violence and ask: How does cinema intervene in this conversation? 



7:30-9 p.m.
Knight Auditorium, Spurlock Museum, 600 S. Gregory, Urbana

Screening of Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968) is an experimental documentary by Black Emmy award-winning filmmaker William Greaves that was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2015. Ebert Symposium keynote speaker Amir George, artistic director of Kartemquin Films, selected the film and will share introductory remarks. Learn more.


9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Illini Room C, Illini Union, 1401 W. Green, Urbana

Keynote Speaker
9:30–10:45 a.m.
"To Be Radical"
Amir George, Artistic Director, Kartemquin Films, Chicago
Join us in person or register to join via Zoom.

Roundtable Discussion #1
11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
"Cinema and Media Interventions into Violence"


  • Rachel Kuo, Assistant Professor of Media & Cinema Studies, UIUC
  • Denise Zaccardi, Executive Director and Founder of CTVN, Community TV Network, Chicago 
  • Melita Garza, Associate Professor and Tom and June Netzel Sleeman Scholar in Business Journalism, UIUC
  • Moderated by Angela Aguayo, Associate Professor of Media & Cinema Studies, UIUC

Roundtable Discussion #2
1-2:30 p.m.
"Cinema and Violence in Challenging Times"

Panelists include the following Ebertfest 2023 filmmaker guests:

  • Edson Oda, director of Nine Days (2020)
  • Jason Michael Berman, producer of Nine Days and president of Mandalay Pictures
  • Max Libman, teenage founder and director of CU International Film Festival, Champaign-Urbana
  • Brenda Robinson, producer of Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands (2022)
  • Moderated by Jenny Oyallon-Koloski, Assistant Professor of Media & Cinema Studies, UIUC


Amir GeorgeAmir George, Artistic Director of Kartemquin Films

Amir George is an award-winning filmmaker and has served as a programmer at True/False Film Fest and Chicago International Film Festival. As an artist, George creates spiritual stories, juxtaposing sound and image into an experience of non-linear perception. George’s films have screened at institutions and film festivals including Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, Anthology Film Archives, Glasgow School of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Trinidad and Tobago International Film Festival, BlackStar Film Festival, and Camden International Film Festival, among others.

The Ebert Symposium began in 2018 and is named in part for the late film critic Roger Ebert. Ebert, who died in 2013, was an Urbana native, journalism alumnus, Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and founder of RogerEbert.com. His namesake film festival, known as Ebertfest, runs April 19-22 at the Virginia Theatre in downtown Champaign. 


Rachel KuoRachel Kuo, Assistant Professor of Media & Cinema Studies in the College of Media, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Rachel Kuo writes, teaches, and researches race, social movements, and technology. Her current book manuscript, Movement Media: Racial Solidarities Across Platforms, brings together archival research and ethnographic fieldwork to examine historical and contemporary grassroots organizing and social movement media forms addressing state violence and U.S. democracy. Her new work examines transnational and intergenerational information systems in Asian diasporas and histories of mis- and disinformation. Her writing has been published in New Media & Society, Social Media and Society, Journal of Communication, Teen Vogue, Truth Out, and ACM Interactions. 

She is a founding member and current affiliate of the Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies and also a co-founder of the Asian American Feminist Collective. She is a co-editor of the anthology Black and Asian Feminist Solidarities with Haymarket Books and co-editor of the the book series Critical Race + Digital Studies at New York University Press. She is also a guest editor at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, including the World Without Cages project. 

Denise ZaccardiDenise Zaccardi, Executive director and founder of CTVN, Community TV Network, Chicago 

Denise Zaccardi, executive director and CTVN founder, holds a PhD in Communications from The Union Institute and wrote the nation’s first dissertation on media arts curriculum for low-income, minority youth. She earned an M.S. in Early Childhood Education from State College in Buffalo, and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Dayton. She has participated as a media and education activist with a variety of local and national organizations. Dr. Zaccardi has received numerous awards for her contributions to the field, including the Christian Service Award from the University of Dayton, and the Service Recognition Award for Arts Educator from the Illinois Arts Alliance. Dr. Zaccardi has put together a team of seasoned artist/teachers carefully selected not only for their exceptional ability to engage and teach arts underserved youth; but to represent a broad range of vital skills and knowledge including psychology, marketing, organizational dynamics, writing, audio, editing, producing, directing, graphics, and animation.

Community TV Network (CTVN) is a non-profit company devoted to empowering youth with the resources and education they need to make digital media! Our network of artists, teachers, and alumni has been promoting the visions and voices of Chicago’s students for 49 years. CTVN promotes positive youth and community development with the overall goal of raising the educational success and economic viability of the neighborhoods in which young participants live and work. CTVN programs instill in our students the awareness, motivation, and tools they need to create positive futures for themselves and the people around them.

Melita GarzaMelita Garza, Associate Professor and Tom and June Netzel Sleeman Scholar in Business Journalism in the College of Media, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Melita M. Garza is an associate professor and the Tom and June Netzel Sleeman Scholar in Business Journalism in the Department of Journalism. She is the 2022-2023 Chair of the Standing Committee on Research for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. She was a fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism. Prior to getting her PhD, Melita M. Garza was an award-winning journalist, working at the Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg news, and the Los Angeles Times during a two-decade-long career.

She is an American journalism historian who studies news as an agent of democracy, specializing in English- and Spanish-language news, the immigrant press, and coverage of underrepresented groups. She is the lead editor of a forthcoming book that aims to re-envision the history of journalism. She is the author of They Came to Toil: Newspaper Representations of Mexicans and Immigrants in the Great Depression (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018), which was a finalist for the Tankard Book Award, the Frank Luther Mot/ Kappa Tau Alpha Award, and the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) Tejas Fojo Award. Her research has also won awards from the American Journalism Historians Association (AJHA), and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) divisions of: History, Minorities and Communication, and International Communication.

Angela AguayoMODERATOR: Angela Aguayo, Associate Professor of Media & Cinema Studies, UIUC

Angela Aguayo's research is centered around documentary production and media studies, and her work creates connections between production, theory, and history. She was selected as a James W. Carey Faculty Fellow, for which she will work on a book project called Collective Matters, which examines how traditions in the humanities, health care, law, and education manifest through documentary in non-theatrical spaces, addressing the rituals of media producing, screening, and circulating that bind communities across time. Her project called the Illinois Community Media Project—which focuses on people making and circulating media that is most aligned with the interests of that community—received funding from campus's inaugural Call to Action to Address Racism & Social Injustice Research Program. She has previously published Documentary Resistance: Social Change and Participatory Media (Oxford University Press), which explores a documentary’s capacity for social change.

Edson OdaEdson Oda, Director

After a series of award-winning short films and music videos, Japanese Brazilian writer and director Edson Oda made his film directorial debut with Nine Days (2020). Based in Los Angeles, Oda is a BAFTA Breakthrough alum, a Sundance Screenwriters Lab alum, and a Latin Grammy-nominated director for best music video.





Jason Michael BermanJason Michael Berman, Producer, President of Mandalay Pictures

Jason Michael Berman, president of Mandalay Pictures, was named in the 2016 Variety Dealmakers Impact Report, and in Variety in 2011 as one of the Top Ten Producers to Watch.

Berman currently has AIR in release for Amazon and Skydance, directed by Ben Affleck, written by Alex Convery, and starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, and Jason Bateman.

He recently produced Surrounded, directed by Anthony Mandler and starring Letitia Wright, Jamie Bell, and Michael K. William, awaiting release from MGM/Amazon. His other recent producing credits include Edson Oda’s Sundance award-winning film Nine Days; Olivier Megaton’s The Last Days of American Crime; Prentice Penny’s Uncorked; Cindy Chupack’s Otherhood; Clark Johnson’s Juanita; Jonathan Helpert's IO; Gerard McMurray's Burning Sands; Ryan Koo's Amateur; Eli Craig's Little Evil; and Nate Parker’s 2016 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury and Audience Award-winning film The Birth of a Nation.

Berman is in development on new projects for Skydance, Netflix, Sony, Apple, and A24.

Prior to producing, Berman worked at the William Morris Agency, MGM Studios, and for writer/director Gary Ross. Berman is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and the Producers Guild of America. He is a 2006 graduate of the University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts, where he has been an adjunct professor since 2013. Berman helped to develop and start the Catalyst program at the Sundance Institute which has now raised over $50M for the financing of award-winning independent narrative film and documentary projects. He is originally from Baltimore, Maryland.

Max LibmanMax Libman, CU International Film Festival Founder

Max Libman is the teenage founder and director of the CU International Film Festival that debuted in October in Urbana and featured eight short films, one of which was produced by the Turner brothers. In his young career, Libman has also been honored for his screenwriting. 





Brenda RobinsonBrenda Robinson, Producer 

Brenda Robinson, producer and entertainment attorney, is involved with numerous film, television, and music projects. She is a producer of Marian Anderson: The Whole World in Her Hands (2022), and was a financier on the Academy Award-winning documentary Icarus as well as Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Step. Robinson is currently head of film finance and inclusion strategies for HiddenLight Productions, a global studio founded by Hillary Clinton, Sam Branson, and Chelsea Clinton. She is also a member of Impact Partners, which is dedicated to funding independent documentaries that focus on social issues.


Jenny Oyallon-KoloskiMODERATOR: Jenny Oyallon-Koloski, Assistant Professor of Media & Cinema Studies

Jenny Oyallon-Koloski is an assistant professor of Media & Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign and a Certified Movement Analyst in Laban/Bartenieff Movement Studies. She serves as the movement analysis specialist for the Media Ecology Project (Mark Williams and John P. Bell, PIs, Dartmouth College) and is a faculty affiliate of the Eye Tracking / Physiology Lab in the College of Media at the University of Illinois. Her current book project argues for the storytelling power of figure movement and dance in musical cinema. She is also the director of the movement visualization (mv) lab and co-creator, in collaboration with Michael Junokas, of the mv tool, an embodied motion-capture research environment to study the manifestations of human movement in cinematic space.