April 4th marks the one year anniversary of the death of Roger Ebert. At Kartemquin this sad event left us stunned and shocked, both because we were still in production on Life Itself, and because Roger Ebert had been a champion of our work since our very first film, and most notably with Hoop Dreams.
Below, Steve James, the director of Life Itself and Hoop Dreams, shares his thoughts on Roger Ebert's legacy, one year later.
For me, April 4th is now indelibly linked to Roger's passing. It's been a whole year and yet in some ways it feels like it happened yesterday, or that he's not really gone. That's because his presence lives on so palpably through Rogerebert.com, and Chaz's amazing blogs, and his many fans and admirers who still frequently invoke his name. A perfect example: Once I began the film, I created a Google Search for his name so I could stay abreast of what he was writing and what others were writing and saying about him. I never cancelled the search, and I'm amazed at how often still - several times every day - someone in print or on the internet is quoting Roger about what he thought of Buster Keaton or Wes Anderson, his defense of the slasher film Halloween, or the first Pokemon movie, or best films of the French New Wave, or synthesized speech programs (I kid you not), or video games (We know how he felt about them.) , or gun control, and on and on. And that's just one week's worth! He was so prodigiously... opinionated and quotable... So I suspect he's not going anywhere soon. His spirit will endure because of all of us who admired him and were moved and challenged and even at times angered by his views. Roger still matters. No small thing in a culture that quickly races on to the Next Big Thing.
Life itself screens at Ebertfest on April 23 and will be in theaters this summer.