Autumn 2014 Documentary series
Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 7:00pm
Directed by Steve James
Starring Gene Siskel, Chaz Ebert, and Roger Ebert
Rated 14A ·
Adapted from his memoir of the same name, Life Itself chronicles the life of legendary film critic Roger Ebert, from his early years in Urbana, Illinois, through his long career in print and television and through the courageous and painful struggles of his final months. Acclaimed documentarian and fellow Chicagoan Steve James (whose 1994 Hoop Dreams Ebert passionately championed) began the project with Ebert’s participation, and completed the film after his death in 2013.
Ebert’s infectious enthusiasm and the deep, abiding love of movies that emanated from every one of his reviews (whether positive or negative) won him the admiration and respect of everyone from casual moviegoers to dedicated cinephiles to members of the film industry itself. Through archival footage and interviews with many of Ebert’s closest friends and collaborators—as well as such major filmmakers as Errol Morris, Werner Herzog and Martin Scorsese (who served as one of the film’s executive producers)—Life Itself chronicles the many phases of Ebert’s career: his honouring with the Pulitzer Prize (the first ever awarded for film criticism), his television career with long-time friend and sparring partner Gene Siskel, his devoted relationship with his wife Chaz, and the serious health problems that plagued him in his later years, which resulted in the loss of his voice and led him to embrace new technologies in order to communicate, blogging and tweeting constantly until his death. Throughout this struggle, Ebert retained his love of film, writing, and, yes, life itself.
“Anyone who shares Ebert’s love of movies and who followed his career will be exceptionally moved by Life Itself, but anyone who appreciates a well-lived life should be touched as well.” (Marc Mohan, Portland Oregonian)
“James tells this unapologetic story with little sympathy, as per Ebert’s wishes, and a lot of passion—he wants the audience to really know who Roger Ebert was, and understand the importance of his work.” (Chase Whale, The Playlist)
“This is a uniquely powerful motion picture, the kind of open and honest portrayal I can’t ever recall having seen about a celebrity. Life Itself stands not only as a moving piece of documentary cinema but an epitaph.” (James Berardinelli, ReelViews)