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Written by: Sam Fragoso on April 29, 2012

April 29, 2012 | 17 comments | Editorial, Featured, Old Format

Ebertfest Recap: Saturday

Just when I thought it wasn’t possible day two of Ebertfest surpassed any expectation I could ever conjure. There wasn’t a single dull moment during the ten plus hours at the Virginia Theater yesterday.  What made Saturday, however, was the opportunity to meet Roger Ebert.

I flew in from California to attend Ebertfest, which is true. But meeting Roger was always my utmost intention. Although I can’t quite recall what I said or heard, it’s an experience never to be forgotten. If you remember me Roger, I apologize. My nerves were so incredibly high that I suspect my rhetoric wasn’t exactly effective. Hopefully my sincerity came through when I said “you were my inspiration to go into film criticism, Roger”.

Most of all, I’m just extraordinarily thankful to both you and Chaz for allowing me to be apart of such a wonderful event. As I wrote down on the card, “Your writings have meant the world to me” – a statement that will hold true till the end of time. You may not be able to speak Roger, but your invaluable voice will live forever.

Below are capsule reviews of the films I saw today:

Higher Ground: What’s impressive about Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut entitled Higher Ground is that it neither panders to Christians, nor patronizes them. And what a rarity in contemporary American cinema that is. Especially in an industry where we have a film like Kevin Smith’s Red State aggressively disrespecting the religion, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, movies like Fireproof and Courageous that are one dimensional and didactic. High Ground is honest and non-partisan in observing religion, marriage, doubt, and faith. In unison with our protagonist Farmiga’s film – adapting from Carolyn S. Briggs’ memoir This Dark World -  is brave, and follows the heart, rather than the consensus.  – A full review to come soon -

Patang: is an explosion of visual imagery and free spirited, observational storytelling. It’s directed by Chicago born Prashant Bhargava, and his latest film – set in Ahmadabad, India focusing on an annual kite festival – is the latest entry into the progressive “Indian film movement” that is transpiring all across the globe. Taking 7-years to write, research, and shoot, Patang is a labor of love at its most simplistic connotation: every ounce of this movie is ingrained within Bhargava. It takes roughly two acts to get going, and I still have much trepidation that the film never quite establishes or finds an organic tone. Still, despite the shortcomings I may have, I’m delighted a film like Patang – free of over utilized storytelling conventions – will be distributed in cities across the United States this summer. I may my reservations, but the film’s message of “holding onto happiness, rather than sadness” is one any person can get behind. Patang truly is a warm-hearted film. My full review of the film will be published during its release starting June 15th.

Take Shelter: Upon my first viewing of Jeff Nichols’ second feature film Take Shelter, I was in awe, and absolutely blown away by the auteurs storytelling techniques, and the way in which he built tension. Last night, watching it on a beautiful 35mm print with an in depth (nearly two hour long) Q & A with the director and lead star afterward, I have a new found respect for the film. Reading over my review from December, all my initial feelings hold true today. Still, nothing can quite compare to the experience of watching the movie last night. Here’s my full review of Take Shelter.

Note: Thank you again Michael Shannon and Jeff Nichols for a brilliant Q & A. It was two hours of enthralling, perceptive conversation. Next year, though, bring your father Mr. Nichols.


There are 17 comments for this post.

  1. Sonal on April 29, 2012 9:15 am

    Wow, that’s so amazing. Ebertfest sounds like a lot of fun and you got to meet Roger Ebert!!! I’m so jealous, always a lifetime ambition of mine too to meet him too. Did it feel like an out of body experience?

  2. Sam Fragoso on April 29, 2012 10:33 am

    I was petrified on my first encounter with him. He’s my hero, my icon, the man I look up to, and learn from. So yes, it was about as close of an out of body experience as I’ve had.

    Thank you for reading.

  3. James on April 29, 2012 12:56 pm

    Very cool, Sam. Your thoughts about Roger Ebert are echoed by anyone who loves film.

  4. Sam Fragoso on April 29, 2012 11:36 pm

    Thank you for reading Ward. I’m glad there’s someone out there watching.

  5. Nick on April 30, 2012 6:22 am

    Sam, that’s amazing. So happy for you. I’ve often pondered what it would be like to meet my hero and it sounds like you handled with much more grace than I ever could. And it sounds like Ebertfest as a whole has been pretty cool too.

  6. Sam Fragoso on April 30, 2012 9:43 am

    Thank you Nick. It’s really quite an interesting and exhilarating experience. And no man, I spoke to him twice. The first time I was petrified, and muttered a few words I think.

    Next year you should come man. I know you live in Chicago, right?

  7. Duke & The Movies :: With A Little Help From My Friends on April 30, 2012 2:22 pm

    [...] but I won’t. For those interested, but have yet to read my coverage, here it is: Friday & Saturday (and a few reviews will be released sometime in the next couple of [...]

  8. Andy Buckle on April 30, 2012 4:19 pm

    Wow Sam. This sounds like an amazing experience so far. I am so glad you got to see A Separation, and Take Shelter again. Also Higher Ground aint to bad either. But, to top it all – meeting Mr. Ebert himself. I am very happy for you to be a part of that experience.

  9. Sam Fragoso on April 30, 2012 6:45 pm

    A Separation is something truly special. Glad it won best foreign film last year.

    Thanks for caring my man.

  10. Alex Withrow on May 1, 2012 6:07 am

    Ole Rog and Shannon/Nichols in the same day, dude, that sounds like a great time. Glad you had so much fun Sam!

  11. Duke & The Movies :: April: In Full Swing on May 1, 2012 4:05 pm

    [...] Patang – An explosion of visual imagery, lacking narrative structure. [...]

  12. Sam Fragoso on May 1, 2012 6:06 pm

    Thanks for the support Alex!

  13. John on May 2, 2012 6:36 am

    It sounds like you had a really fantastic experience, Sam. Congrats on attending!

  14. Sam Fragoso on May 2, 2012 9:07 am

    Thank you John, it really was a remarkable, cool little experience.

  15. ruth m on May 2, 2012 3:21 pm

    Woo hoo! That’s cool that you got to meet Mr. Ebert, congrats and thanks for sharing the experience.

  16. Sam Fragoso on May 2, 2012 6:07 pm

    You’re very welcome Ruth – glad to have you around.

  17. niels on May 7, 2012 9:29 am

    It’s cool you got to attend this event. I wanted to make it for the Sunday screening of Citizen Kane but I sadly could not.
    I’m glad you got to meet one of your inspirations, it’s always an emotional moment you’ll probably never forget.
    As for the films you reviewed, I’ve only had the pleasure to watch Take Shelter and a trailer of Higher Ground, which certainly looks interesting. I don’t think I’m as much of a fan of the first, but I do respect it on many levels and I thought Michael Shannon was grossly overlooked by the Academy.

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