News Local/State

Director Steve James Reflects On The Making Of “Life Itself”


The documenatary about Roger Ebert's life entitled “Life Itself” makes its local premeire Wednesday, opening the 16th annual ‘Ebertfest’ in Champaign. Director Steve James says it's not the film that he, Roger, and wife Chaz Ebert orginally envisioned.  

During an interview on last week's 'Focus' program, James told Illinois Public Media’s Jeff Bossert that because Roger’s health took an unexpected took a turn for the worse during filming, ‘Life Itself’, became partly about death.

During a presentation in 2005, when a star was dedicated in his name outside Chicago Theater, Ebert said movies helped him empathize with the lives of others. 

"We are born with a certain package, we are who we are," he said. "Where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We're kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civiliziation and growth is to be able to reach out and emphathize a little bit with other people.  And for me, the movies are a like a machine that generates empathy.  It lets you understand a little more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams, and fears.  It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us."

"I think (Ebert) was able to look at his own life, and all of the struggles that he went through, and the adventures he had, and he translated that experience to the movies," said James.

'Life Itself', which garnered rave reviews after its screening at the Sundance Film Festival, is expected to begin its run in theaters July 4th.  It's also just been selected for the Cannes Film Festival in May, according to the the website DNA Info Chicago.