The Ebert Fellows Go to Ebertfest 2024 | Festivals & Awards

Robinson came from Athens, GA., for his second Ebertfest at the invitation of festival director Nate Kohn, one of the grad student’s UGA professors. “He’s a really good guide and supportive mentor,” he said of Kohn, in between Ebertfest screenings. “I wanted to come just to be with him and see some films.”

At UGA, Robinson has pursued a Masters in Screenwriting, while creating several of his own films which can be found on his blog. Over dinner with Robinson’s fellow UGA classmates, also attending Ebertfest, Robinson joked about his nerves as he prepared for an on-stage, post-screening panel discussion following the 1929 Alfred Hitchcock film “Blackmail,” accompanied by the two-man Alloy Orchestra. We talked while Robinson and his colleagues awaited the arrival of Tres Leches cake served at the wonderful Big Grove Tavern, a five-minute walk from the Virginia Theatre.

“It’s nice to be at a festival that isn’t about competition or anything,” Robinson told me. “It’s more just about connecting with people, sharing the experience of films, and how they change people’s lives and allow them to grow. It’s really relaxed. Just a nice calm time.”

I asked him about his favorite Ebertfest films this year, and he adjusted his wire-rim glasses while taking some time to think. “So far I’ve really liked ‘The Teachers Lounge’ a lot. I think it’s a really strong film and also a very brisk and short one. I also liked ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.’ That was the first time for me, actually. It really affected me.”

Robinson assured me the eight-hour round-trip drive from Athens to Champaign, in a car crammed with peers, was worth it. He hopes to come back next year.


Subject: Becky Rowe, longtime Ebertfest attendee, daughter of festival sponsor and donor Betsy Hendrick

Over dinner, on the final night of Ebertfest 2024, I met Rowe and her mother. This year Hendrick was honored for her continuing support of the festival; she was also a longtime friend of the late Roger Ebert, and worked with him on the News-Gazette (covering Champaign-Urbana). She was in college at the time; Ebert was still in high school.