WILL - Focus - April 18, 2014

Life Itself: director Steve James and Chaz Ebert on the new documentary about Roger Ebert

During this Focus interview, Jeff Bossert talks with Steve James and Chaz Ebert about capturing the life of a critic on film.  


(Duration: 50:26)

Flm critic Roger Ebert in Chicago in 2005

After he lost his voice, some say film critic Roger Ebert became an even better writer, pouring all his efforts into movie reviews and other columns. As he further mastered his craft, legendary writer, historian, actor and broadcaster Studs Terkel sent him a note about his ‘new’ voice. “This – what you write now, it’s more than about movies. Yes, it’s about the movies but there is something added. A new REFLECTION on life itself.”

Those last words became the title for Roger Ebert’s 2011 memoir, and is now the title of a new documentary about his life. Steven Zailian, screenwriter for ‘Schindler’s List” among other films, first approached director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, 2005) in late 2012 about the project. When James first met with Chaz and Roger about the direction the film would take, no one could have predicted he would pass away just five months later.

During this Focus interview, Jeff Bossert talks with filmmaker Steve James and Chaz Ebert about capturing Roger’s life, and his death, on film. 

WILL - Focus - February 28, 2014

The 86th Academy Awards

The Oscars are the most-watched film award show; how do they influence the industry?


(Duration: 51:50)

For nearly a century, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been hosting the Oscars. For just as long, the awards have influenced marketing, distribution, taste and conversations within the movie industry. But not everyone agrees completely about how meaningful the awards are. Austin McCann, the general manager for the Art Theater Co-op in Champaign, says that he doesn’t put much faith in the Oscars’ ability to select what he considers to be a good film.

Nationally, the Oscars are just one part of an interconnected series of film festivals and awards shows around the world, says Erik Childress, film critic for WGN and contributor to He closely watches and analyzes the awards season each year. This hour on Focus, host Jeff Bossert talks with both McCann and Childress about the influence of the Oscars and their favorite films this year (Oscar-nominated or not).

What were your favorites this year? Were you able to see them all? This hour, Bossert will talk with McCann about how the Art selects films for the theater long before they become Oscar nominees. 

WILL - Focus - February 18, 2014

Insect Fear Film Festival 31: Pesticide Fear Films

Today on Focus, we welcome back Professor May Berenbaum to talk about this year’s Insect Fear Film Festival. 


(Duration: 50:58)

May Berenbaum with an insect

At this year’s Insect Fear Film Festival, May Berenbaum says she’s out to explore our complex relationship with pesticides. This hour on Focus, Scott Cameron talks with Berenbaum, professor of entomology and department head at the University of Illinois, about this year’s films, which include Riders of the Whistling Pines (1949), a film in which spraying DDT saves the day.

Berenbaum will also tell us more about new research linking pesticides to the decline in bee populations. Call us to join our conversation on Focus! 

Read more to see a full list of films at this year’s festival.

WILL - Focus - August 29, 2013

Indian Accents

Why do racial stereotypes change over time? How do they develop? According to author Shilpa Dave, the movies play a huge role. This hour on Focus, Jeff Bossert talks with her about her new book “Indian Accents: Brown Voice and Racial Performance in American Television and Film.”


(Duration: 51:54)

An scene from the film "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay"

Growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, Shilpa Dave loved going to the movies. Her father was a self-proclaimed film “buff,” and Dave loved every minute of it. Her parents immigrated to the US from India before she was born, and as she grew older, she started to wonder why there were no people who looked like her in the movies she went to see with her father. This hour on Focus, Jeff Bossert talks with American Studies Professor and author Shilpa Dave about her new book “Indian Accents” recently published by the University of Illinois Press. In it, she examines Indian culture and its portrayal in American popular film. We’ll talk about why there were very few prominent Indian or South East Asian characters until the late 1990’s and the affect Bollywood’s growing success is having on casting in Hollywood films. 

During this episode of Focus, we’ll hear about an MTV cartoon that caused a hunger strike in New Dehli and forced the network to release a formal apology because of its animated depiction of Gandhi and will talk about “Raj,” the popular character from “The Big Bang Theory” and Apu, the Indian convenience store owner from “The Simpsons.”

Categories: Cinema, Race/Ethnicity

WILL - Focus - August 07, 2013

Encore: The Art of Acting

Have you ever acted in a play? This hour on Focus, we’ll listen back to a conversation Jeff Bossert had with character actor Stephen Tobolowsky and Henson Keys about the art of acting.


(Duration: 49:41)

At some point, almost everyone dreams of being a movie star or being on stage and in the limelight… but without the actors and actresses in supporting roles, there would be no star of the show. This hour on Focus, we’ll listen back to a conversation Jeff Bossert had with Stephen Toboloswky and University of Illinois Acting Program Chair Henson Keys about the importance of the character actor and how supporting roles are sometimes even more challenging to play well than leading roles. We’ll also talk with Stephen about the moment he knew he was destined for a career as a character actor....when he started to lose his hair while he was studying at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Categories: Art and Culture, Cinema

WILL - Focus - June 19, 2013

Summer Movie Reviews

What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently? We want to hear from you today on Focus! This hour we’ll talk with’s new Editor, Matt Zoller-Seitz. Michael Philips also joins us this hour to talk about the best new movies out this summer.


(Duration: 49:45)

a movie theatre

This hour on Focus, we’ll talk with’s new Editor-in-Chief Matt Zoller Seitz about the future of the flagship movie review site for fans in an era post-Roger. The site, recently expanded and revamped, now includes all or Roger's work, a blog by his wife, Chaz, and other new features for movie fans. We’ll also talk with him about new movies out recently - what’s worth seeing….and what’s not. Michael Phillips, film critic for the Chicago Tribune, also joins us.

Categories: Cinema

WILL - Focus - May 15, 2013

Join us for a free, online film screening!

7 pm TONIGHT: Film traces fascinating evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman. 

Wonder Women logo

Join our free online social screening and discussion of this film that traces the fascinating evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman. From the birth of the comic book superheroine in the 1940s to the blockbusters of today, Wonder Women! looks at how popular representations of powerful women often reflect society's anxieties about women's liberation. The screening begins at 7 pm Wednesday, May 15.

The film goes behind the scenes with TV stars Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman) and Lindsay Wagner (The Bionic Woman), comic writers and artists, and real-life superheroines such as Gloria Steinem, Kathleen Hanna and others, who offer an enlightening and entertaining counterpoint to the male-dominated superhero genre.

Wonder Women! explores the nation’s long-term love affair with comic book superheroes and raises questions about the possibilities and contradictions of heroines within the genre. Reflecting our culture’s deep-seated ambivalence toward powerful women — even in this so called post-feminist era — women may be portrayed as good, or brave, or even featured as “action babes,” but rarely are they seen as heroes at the center of their own journey.

Categories: Cinema

WILL - Focus - April 18, 2013

Remembering Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert’s 15th Annual Film Festival opened last night in Champaign at the historic Virginia Theatre for the first time without Roger. This hour on Focus, we’re remembering him and his mark on film and culture.


(Duration: 50:32)

Roger Ebert

Pulitzer Prize winning film critic, screenwriter and journalist Roger Ebert will be remembered as one of the greatest film critics of all time. His mark on the cinema, our culture and our community are undeniable. This hour on Focus, guest host Jeff Bossert talks with Chicgao Tribune film critic Michael Phillips. Phillips filled in for Roger on "At the Movies" when he first became ill and later took over the show. We'll also hear from several members of the Champaign-Urbana community and a long-time Ebertfest volunteer. 

Did you know and love Roger? What did he mean to you? To our community? We want to hear from you this hour on Focus.

A new local WILL-TV special, Ebert Remembered, airing at 8 pm Thursday, April 18, will highlight excerpts of WILL-TV interviews with Roger Ebert in which he talks about his childhood in Urbana, his experience at the University of Illinois and his role as a movie critic.

WILL - Focus - April 12, 2013

Coming up on Focus: Remembering Roger Ebert, Blue Waters and The Ordinary Acrobat

Do you have fond memories of Roger Ebert? What do you think of when you hear “circus?” Do you have questions about the UIUC’s new super computer Blue Waters?  Find out more about what’s coming up next week on Focus and join our conversation.

Coming up next week on Focus, we’re remembering Pulitzer Prize winning film critic, screenwriter and journalist Roger Ebert, talking about super computers and learning about how the circus is very serious business in other parts of the world. Find out more and our conversation!

WILL - Focus - April 11, 2013

Bond….James Bond

What is it about James Bond? Why did the character spark such a following and why does the character endure? This hour on Focus, we talked about Bond, his cars and his legacy.


(Duration: 51:26)

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the release of Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale” that introduced the world to the now infamous mystery man, James Bond. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk with Michael VanBlaricum, a UIUC alumnus and founder of the Ian Fleming Foundation, about Bond’s legacy.  John Cork, co-author of the book "James Bond: The Legacy" and a documentary film maker and writer known for his knowledge of the character, also joins us.

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