Life Itself (Steve James, 2014): USA

Reviewed by Mina Gilbertsson. Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2015.

Robert Ebert (1942–2013) was an American film critic from Urbana, Illinois. His career began when he started writing for the Chicago Sun Times’ magazine in 1966. Mr. Ebert was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, the year he also created Siskel and Ebert – the film discussing television show with Gene Siskel.

Life Itself is a documentary devided into chapters like Mr. Ebert’s memoir with the same titel. The film covers the remarkable success, the alcoholism, the death of his fellow co-host Mr. Siskel and the cancer.

The first scene shows the audience Ebert’s state during the five months of filmning. By the time they were filming, Ebert had lost all ability to talk, leaving writing as the only communication he had. Even though, the audience could tell that he was in more pain than he was letting on, it never went too long before he cracked a smile. His strenght and his cheerful self inspired me and probably many others to always be stay strong and to always look on the bright side.

Robert’s wife Chaz Ebert was very sceptical to the fact that they could film Robert during some of his difficult times. She felt uncomfortable with cameras around during such private moments, but when she heard what Robert had to say, she changed her mind. He did not want any glamour in the film – only the true and full story – without any secrets. Something that I believe came from the fact that Gene Siskel hid his cancer.

Chaz Ebert told the audience after the screening that she is working on keeping her husband’s legacy alive. She takes care of his site and makes sure that the articles and the reviews are published. Long live Robert Ebert.

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