Roger Ebert and Robert Redford. Photo by Calvin Knight.
Today the Sundance family joins our friends in the film community and film lovers everywhere in mourning the loss of Roger Ebert. His passion for great cinema was second to none, and his role as champion for artistic risk-taking and original storytelling was a driving cultural force that created enthusiastic audiences for the best independent films of our time.
In describing Roger, Robert Redford said, “Among the many things I admired about Roger Ebert is how he has long supported freedom of artistic expression. When I started Sundance in 1980, and when few would support us, Roger was there. This was one of the ways he communicated his forward-thinking outlook. He was one of the first to support our artists. His influence and reach was as meaningful as his personal passion for cinema.”
Roger was a frequent attendee of our Sundance Film Festival, where he discovered and supported films like Hoop Dreams, Man Push Cart, Come Early Morning, Longtime Companion, Metropolitan, The Brothers McMullen, Crumb, Picture Bride, American Movie, and The War Zone. Sundance alumni who count him as an advocate include Steve James, Spike Lee, Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, and Werner Herzog. Roger’s spirit and legacy are wonderfully portrayed in this clip from the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.
Over his 45-year career, Roger created a robust platform with which to advocate for the films that he loved. As chief film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger’s reviews were syndicated in more than 200 newspapers worldwide. His television programs Sneak Previews, At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, and Siskel and Ebert at The Movies were co-hosted with Gene Siskel and earned multiple Emmy Award nominations. He authored 15 books and, in 1999, started the annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival in his hometown of Champaign, Illinois.
Our thoughts and condolences are with his wife Chaz, their family, and friends. We are deeply grateful for Roger’s enormous and unique impact on independent film and American culture at large. We are all richer for his contributions.