On April 24th, a life size bronze statue was unveiled of the iconic film critic as he gives a signature thumbs up outside the Virginia Theater.
One of the most emotionally gripping and unforgettable presentations was that of Capote. The 2005 biographical film about the controversial and popular author Truman Capote and directed by Bennett Miller. Capote star Philip Seymour Hoffman who played the title role received an Academy Award for his breakthrough performance, but like Roger Ebert he too unfortunately has recently passed away. A point which became very poignant on the day of Capote's presentation as Ebert's wife Chaz Ebert walked out on to the Virginia Theater stage. She was met with a warm reception by the engaged audience at the packed venue as she began speaking about her late husband and the film's relevant significance. It became obvious that Chaz, whom was always supportive of her late husband, remained affected by the loss while still displaying gratitude at the opportunity of celebrating the legacy of two talented souls in Roger Ebert and Philip Seymore Hoffman. Although struggling to hold back tears at points, her words clearly reached the audience.
Shortly after Chaz Ebert then introduced Sony Pictures Classics' Co-Founder and Co-President Michael Barker. Barker who was instrumental in the release of Capote and numerous other successful films, expressed his acknowledgment of the impact Roger Ebert has had throughout the years on the film industry and it's filmmakers. He recounted how he and director Bennett Miller had proposed to include Capote in this year's festival and were happily accepted in spite of time constraints. He believed in the importance of including a film that was beloved by Ebert and also honored it's lead star Philip Seymore Hoffman.
The screening itself was a truly unique experience as the audience attentively watched on with anticipation while the opening credits rolled, clapping as Hoffman and Sony Pictures' credits were displayed. In the age of digital projection there was a refreshing nostalgic look to the original film reel being projected as I along with the audience soon became immersed. The film's more subtle humorous moments from Hoffman's character provoked smiles and laughter from the crowd as if seen for the very first time. The more dramatic scenes were still every bit as powerful in it's thematic weight and strong performances. It was clear why the film had earned so many awards as the audience applauded loudly continuously during end credits, partly in celebration of Hoffman's legacy.
As the lights in the theater were lifted the helmer behind Capote Bennett Miller was brought on the stage and Chaz Ebert proudly presented him with the "Golden Thumb", a trophy-like casting of Roger Ebert's thumb, in the up position.
The Virginia Theater dimmed down as the screening began for a film which had not seen a theatrical release in the last 25 years. In fact, it was evident many in attendance had never seen Do The Right Thing projected theatrically. The film copy was donated by Universal specifically for the festival. Highlighted in the film were racial relations between Blacks, Whites, Latinos and Asians which in 1989 was a topic rarely explored in this film's manner. Taking place entirely within one block in the city of Brooklyn during a record summer heatwave, the characters often interacted in an ever increasing tense atmosphere. By the film's culmination it had delivered upon the concept of the title leaving viewers to debate which character within the film had in fact done 'the right thing'.
Director Spike Lee again emerged on stage to also receive the "Golden Thumb" as he exchanged as he thanked Chaz Ebert for the honor.
Prestige du Monde had the great privilege of speaking with Spike Lee shortly before leaving the festival as he posed for photos with Chaz Ebert and our very own Mary Chuy.