Ebertfest 2023–Final Days

This was my second time experiencing To Leslie in a festival setting. The first time was at last year’s Chicago Critics Film Festival. Director Michael Morris brings us a film that challenges the concept of making mistakes and having a fresh start. The film focuses on Leslie (played by Andrea Riseborough). Leslie is a single mother who won tons of money in a lottery and burned it all. She has hit hard ground with addictions and a world of problems. The whole town knows her for her errors in a small area of West Texas. With Morris directing a film based on true events, To Leslie displays that there are always second chances. With the help of a hotel manager named Sweeney (played by Marc Maron), Leslie starts to find more confidence in herself. Leslie’s troubles are intense, but inspiring. The approach the director takes with portraying her errors sends a message that Leslie just needs a little more faith in herself. The film is an astonishing independent work of art that I found mesmerizing.

From a PBS documentary comes one of the most honest films which is sure to touch viewers. The film includes much archived footage of Marian Anderson, and the title speaks for itself. Directed by Rita Coburn, there are loads of historical factors that are mentioned and carefully detailed. It is a journey of a woman with a voice who faced many conflicts due to segregation and other challenges of the times. Where I found honesty in this film was in how it raised awareness of many African Americans who faced rejection. The quote, “Her success is our success” resonated with me. Marian Anderson’s talent is worshipped through the artistic direction of Coburn. The era of the 1920s through the 1940s are depicted through an invigorating timeline of real events. I love the film for how it inspires people to shoot for their dreams, to not let rejection get them down, but instead allow it to encourage them.

Two short films were screened. Both display realism and talented voices in the shortened length of time. Team Dream is directed by Luchina Fisher and Club Alli is directed by Julien and Justin Turner. Team Dream is a true story about Ann Smith and Madeline Murphy Rabb, swimmers in the 2022 National Senior Games. The film covers background on their lives and displays empathy related to accomplishing their goals as athletes. It is touching and encourages its audience with the message that it is never too late to accomplish something you’re passionate about. It has its moments of trial and error but visits those concepts with passion and dedication through a compelling narrative that is unforgettable. Club Alli is a short film about a robbery operation with a retro vibe. The film challenges race but incorporates it into a story about having an operation not go awry. This is a dark short film from the creative minds of talented directors. I was blown away by all its cinematic elements. Both films covering the topics of race and segregation are mesmerizing well-laid out stories.

From director Boaz Yakin, Fresh is close to its anniversary of being two decades old. To this day, it is a masterpiece with significant depth that stirs the pot of conflict. It is a film that illustrates the obstacles of life for an orphan. That orphan goes by the name “Fresh”, and he is played by Sean Nelson. He spends his time among gangs and violence. At the age of twelve, he finds himself on a plateau of legal problems which put him in a risky danger zone. In the eyes of Fresh, he is bored and lonely, which causes him to get involved with gangs. The moments where he finds some joy in his life are playing chess with Sam (played by Samuel L. Jackson). With all the turmoil in the film, Fresh is a realistic example of life for younger kids in an environment that is toxic for them. The film’s message is that there is an opportunity to start somewhere new, even in the worst of times. The film’s compelling suspense makes for an invigorating ride. The audience knows that Fresh only wants to have a life that is good for him.

This was my third time experiencing this film.  The trails of storytelling come into play and are vital in achieving what this film is trying to portray. Director Wim Wenders challenges the cinematography with the story. He also makes his audience think about what his characters have on their minds. Wings of Desire is quite an experience. The plot is focused on two individuals, Damien and Cassiel (played by Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander).  They are two angels who are observing the world. In their observations, there are narrations involving how they feel about what they see, hear, touch, or feel. These feelings are presented in the most astonishing shots some of which are obscure or haunting. The realism and the mental capacity that Wings of Desire requires stirs up a range of inner thoughts that make its audience wonder about their presence in this world. I continue to be amazed by the experience of this film. The restoration of Wings of Desire is a triumph and among of the best cinematic masterpieces this world has to offer.

The beloved classic Forrest Gump touches my heart and always will. The life of one man with many struggles, Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks). However, his “struggles” are not the film’s sole focus. The film begins with him sitting on a bench telling stories of his accomplishments to others waiting for a bus. Then it jumps to his early childhood when he is explaining how his mother (played by Sally Field) had him observed. She is informed that his IQ is not the greatest. In a heartbeat, Forrest is found to have many talents and aspirations that emerge out of nowhere. His biggest focus is his love for Jenny (played by Robin Wright). His life of accomplishments spans real-life events which include American presidents, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and many more. Forrest has social problems, but he is one-of-a-kind with amazing gifts. It is not just because of Hanks’s performance that I love Forrest Gump. It is also because of how Forrest makes his priority and focus the people he cares about the most who include Lieutenant Dan (played by Gary Sinise) and Bubba (played by Mykelti Williamson). As an individual on the spectrum who is always working to grow and improve myself, Forrest Gump reminds me that there is always a bright side to life, in the good and the bad times. As Forrest says, “My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.”

Attending Ebertfest this year was one of the most rewarding experiences. There are many film festivals in the world, but none are quite like this one. A lot of festivals require attendees to pick which films they want to see. Not at Ebertfest!  I enjoyed getting to know everyone because it is a festival with a community who share a common love of movies, The critics, the audience, and the many people I know who attended the fest have been a positive inspiration to me. This experience truly encouraged me to keep watching movies and writing reviews. I hope this festival continues to be a unique community festival experience. I was so moved by Ebertfest 2023, and I hope to attend again in the future. 


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