2019 Ebertfest to open with Aretha Franklin concert film

Associated Press
Aretha Franklin in "Amazing Grace."

Champaign, Ill. – The Aretha Franklin concert film “Amazing Grace” will open this year’s Roger Ebert film festival in Champaign-Urbana.

The University of Illinois says the 1972 film directed by Sydney Pollack has been stored in a vault for decades. It’s now been restored and released. It will kick off this year’s Ebertfest followed by a live community choir performance. Franklin died at the age of 76 in August from pancreatic cancer.

Ebertfest co-founder Chaz Ebert says that instead of opening with the traditional musical, this year the festival will begin with “a glorious, gospel-infused high note.”

Review: 'Amazing Grace' a towering testament to Aretha

The annual festival honors Ebert, the late Chicago Sun-Times film critic and an Illinois graduate. It runs April 10 to 13 at Champaign’s Virginia Theatre. More films and a screening schedule are to be released.