Film festival names award in memory of Roger Ebert

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Given that one of Roger Ebert’s passions was the encouragement and support of promising new filmmakers, it’s appropriate the Chicago International Film Festival has established the Roger Ebert Award — to salute emerging filmmakers with “a fresh and uncompromising vision.”

Launched in this the festival’s 50th anniversary season, 13 films will be eligible for the award this year. They also will be competing in the festival’s New Directors Competition.

Ebert was a lifelong champion of films that broke new ground. He was famous for supporting new directors who brought creative approaches to the world of cinema. For many, it was Ebert’s reviews and other support that brought those new filmmakers to the attention of the world at large.

In a statement announcing the award, the festival noted that it was only seven months after Ebert became the Chicago Sun-Times film critic in 1967 that he first saw the movie “I Call First,” directed by the then unknown Martin Scorsese. As festival founder and artistic director Michael Kutza noted, “Through the Chicago International Film Festival, Roger fell in love with the idea of a space where audiences and filmmakers were treated as equals, where discoveries could be made. This award is one more way to keep his memory and his contributions alive.”

Roger’s widow, Chaz Ebert, said, “Roger was so perceptive about new ways to see the world, and when he spotted that talent in filmmakers he would go out of his way to introduce the world to those exciting , fresh visions.”

The Roger Ebert Award will be presented during the festival’s awards night, Friday, Oct. 17, at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower Hotel, 20 E. Chestnut.

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