Roger Ebert’s Film Festival: A Space of Wonder.

Nathaniel Kohn and Kristi Amatucci, Roger Ebert’s Film Festival: A Space of Wonder. To be presented at the Reframing Film Festivals: Histories, Economies, Cultures International Film Studies Conference, University of Bari “Aldo Moro”, Bari, Italy, 25-26 March, 2020.

Abstract: Turner’s notion of liminal space as a transformative space between phases of separation and incorporation is useful in understanding the purpose and effect of festivals.  As Bhabhi and Said note, such threshold spaces between fixed identifications represent a possibility for cultural hybridity that celebrates difference without an assumed or imposed hierarchical structure.
In this paper, we take these theoretical concepts and use them to analyze a specific festival event, Roger Ebert’s Film Festival (Ebertfest), an annual film festival, now in its 22nd year and held at the historic Virginia Theater in Champaign, Illinois, USA. We examine how in the space/time/community of the festival, audience members can try on, warp, or embrace movie and festival inspired identities – how empathy becomes enacted in the place of festival.