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‘Gothic Romance’ Opens 18th Ebertfest

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro shares a laugh with Chaz Ebert and Festival Director Nate Kohn Wednesday night at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign.

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro shares a laugh with Chaz Ebert and Festival Director Nate Kohn Wednesday night at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign. Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

Director Guilermo Del Toro says bringing 2015’s "Crimson Peak" to open the 18th annual Ebertfest – and taking questions from fans - some who have seen it multiple times - was a healing experience.  He said it was advertised as a horror film, and not the ‘gothic romance’ he calls it.

"I came here with such desires," he said.  "This is not a metaphor.  I really haven't felt this way since I went to Disneyland the first time as a kid."

The Mexican director, whose other credits include "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Hellboy" said he isn't striving for demographics with his work.

"I make them for myself," he said.  "And I don't give a movie two, three, years of my life if I don't absolutely adore it."

Del Toro said a gothic romance can be described, in very strange ways, as a dark fairy tale.  "The first movie I ever saw, at age 4, was William Wyler's Wuthering Heights," he said.  "I believe that kind of bent me a certain way."

Festival Host and Executive Producer Chaz Ebert said the attendance of each film in the festival should not be used as a litmus test for overall success. 

Her comments Wednesday were in response to an article in the News-Gazette earlier this week, citing lower numbers for festival passes sold the last three years, screenings that made the most revenue, and those that failed to bring in $1,000 in ticket sales.

Ebert says she didn’t understand the purpose of the article.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is not a sporting event," she said.  "We don’t compare one movie against the other.  This is a cultural and arts and educational event.”

Thursday's News-Gazette features an op-ed piece from Chaz Ebert replying to the article.  The paper also had a follow-up article of its own Thursday.

It’s been three years since the passing of her husband, Urbana native Roger Ebert.  Now programmers like Chaz rely on a list of films he left behind – and others they feel he’d want to share with a large audience.  She said that’s where the initial ‘overlooked’ theme came from when starting the festival 17 years ago.

“We were looking for gems – little gems of movies – that deserved a second look, that people maybe hadn’t seen enough of," she said.  "It didn’t mean that the movie had to be something they’d never heard of.  But something that Roger felt celebrated the human condition.”

Eventually, the 'overlooked' was removed from the title of the festival. 

Outside the Virginia Theatre Wednesday night.

Photo Credit: Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

The festival continues Thursday with a slate of three films, including a 1949 film noir that's among Roger Ebert's all-time gems, "The Third Man."  Appearing after the screening will be Angela Allen, who was a script supervisor for the classic under director Carol Reed.