(AP) Ebert documentary to premiere at Sundance festival
By CARYN ROUSSEAU
When “Life Itself” debuts Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival, it will be the first time Roger Ebert’s widow will see the full documentary about her late husband’s life.
Ebert was a long-time supporter and Sundance attendee, writing in 1997 about being at the festival in its early years when the award ceremony was in a hotel conference room.
Chaz Ebert and the crowds in Park City, Utah, won’t be the only ones watching the premiere on Sunday. Filmmakers tapped into Ebert’s wide net of online fans to crowd fund $150,000 for final production costs. Donors will receive a code that lets them stream the documentary at the same time it plays at Sundance.
The documentary will in some ways be different from what James envisioned when he asked the Eberts if he could shadow them and tell the story of Ebert’s 2012 autobiography, “Life Itself.”
The first day of filming wasn’t at a screening or dinner party, James said. It was at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic lost portions of his jaw and the ability to speak, eat and drink after cancer surgeries in 2006. Shortly before he died, he announced that he was undergoing radiation for a recurrence of cancer.
Despite Ebert’s illness, James said he feels he was able to capture the longtime Chicago Sun-Times columnist’s spirit and sense of humor, presenting the man, not just the icon.
About two dozen interviews are part of the film, including with directors Werner Herzog and Martin Scorsese as well as Marlene Iglitzen, the wife of Ebert’s late famous partner, Gene Siskel.
James said the Eberts “really opened up,” and allowed his crew access.
Chaz Ebert said James was unobtrusive, though she still noticed the cameras.
The documentary isn’t Chaz Ebert’s only recent effort at keeping her late husband’s memory alive. She is working on several projects, including the rogerebert.com movie review website, a Broadway show, TV shows and an animated review show.