by: Johnny Díaz
As fate would have it, I happened upon a gem of a film for my Friday night viewing pleasure scrolling away through Facebook. "Our Ebertfest", part travelogue, part tribute, and lastly, part love affair, is a sweet rumination on the intersection of life, love, and art that invites the audience to partake in a couple’s trip to Chicago and Champaign for the festival dedicated to the late film critic, Roger Ebert.
Like any good piece of art, the piece transcends its own origin and intent. Beginning as a kind of diary in the first half of the film, it subtly transforms into a conversational piece about the nature of art and its value to humanity, provoking us to dig deeper into the relationship between society and the artists we admire, as well as their respective works of art.
The film, clocking in just under 26 minutes, was shot, edited, and directed by Gio Crisafulli, with the helping hand of lover and muse, Melissa Batista. Centering on the Virginia theater where the festival is held, the narrative weaves in and out of panel discussions in the theater to local eateries and cultural institutions, as well as in and out of reverie and self-awareness. In true collaborative fashion the couple share screen time and shoot the film together, playfully blurring the lines between the observer and the observed.
One of the lessons to be learned about this joint effort is that we don't have to endure the pain (or torture as Guillermo del Toro describes it) of the artistic process alone. The film tells us that we should not feel entrapped by the 'curse of Van Gogh', whose beautiful paintings are displayed in a bright light in a dark room. Through love and companionship, we need not become the cliché of the solitary artist.
In one of the defining moments of the piece that marks its denouement, the camera pans up into the ceiling of the Virginia theatre and cuts into an opening of a ceiling of a Greco-Roman place of public gathering in a classical painting. In voice-over narrative, Paul Cox, one of the filmmakers highlighted in the festival, shares his personal experience of being fortunate to be alive thanks to an anonymous liver transplant. Just like Paul Cox, we should be grateful to have these gifts from our fellows that enliven us, or as he so eloquently puts it, "the proof of our lives is the love we leave behind, and life must be an act of love, whatever the consequence."
I couldn't have chosen a better film to watch myself, made all the better by the fact the protagonists and authors are cherished friends (full disclosure). 'Ebertfest' is a film rich in content that allows the audience to overlook any of its technical mistakes or superfluity and gets two enthusiastic thumbs up. I am excited about the prospect of what we are to see in the future from these two amazing individuals. May everything you do be an act of love just as you are.