NK: Not much has changed in my relationship to the festival. What is missing, of course, is Roger. I particularly miss the way he used to introduce each film, telling us why he liked each film, why he programmed it, and what we as film lovers should look for in each film. He taught us all how to watch movies, and we learned how to better appreciate some difficult films. And he did it with insights and humor that no one can duplicate.
Can you talk about the importance of this year’s theme, empathy, in the way you approach movie-going?
NK: The choice of the theme this year was a way to honor Roger, who viewed movies as empathy machines. Movies invite us into their characters’ lives and in good films, we become those characters for a couple of hours and, if the film is a great one, those characters and their lives stay with us for a long time after we leave the theater.
CE: I just want to sit in the dark and have a movie crack my heart wide open.
Of course, I have to ask: What’s your all-time favorite film?
EC: Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.”
NK: I no longer ask my students to tell me the name of their favorite film. Instead, I ask them to tell me the name of the film that best reflects who they are as human beings. The question confounds them, and the answers give real insight into who they really are. With that in mind, the film that best reflects me is “The Third Man.”
Ebertfest 2023 is taking place at The Virginia Theater, 203 W. Park Ave., in Champaign, Illinois, from April 19-22. Tickets are available at the Virginia Theater and online, $15-$20.