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Ebert Digital teams with Chicago Urban League to give young film critics a voice

High school and college journalism, film students given a shot at having reviews of the Urban League's Black History Month Film Festival documentaries posted on

CHICAGO, Feb. 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Carrying on her husband's legacy of cultivating young writing and filmmaking talent, Chaz Ebert has teamed up with civil rights and empowerment group the Chicago Urban League to give aspiring film critics the opportunity to comment on cinema by or about African-Americans and post their views on, the preeminent movie review site.

High school students interested in film criticism taking part in the Urban League's education initiatives, as well as those involved in the Columbia Links journalism program at Columbia College, are being anointed critics during the League's Black History Month Film Festival. The lineup includes three feature-length documentaries and one short documentary. The screenings are free and open to the public, and will be held every Tuesday in February at 6 p.m. at Urban League headquarters, 4510 S. Michigan Ave. A panel discussion will follow each screening.

Film instructors at local colleges and universities have also been asked to recruit writers interested in film criticism.

Editors at will select reviews to post on the site. Students will be encouraged to comment on the panel discussions following the films as part of their critique.

Chaz Ebert says, "The African-American Film Critics Association just gave the Roger Ebert Award to Justin Chang, an Asian American film critic at Variety. I would like to see the development of more writers who can express a diverse world view, and I am happy that is partnering with the Urban League to encourage it. I am especially pleased that the young people the films are intended to inspire will have an opportunity to review them and have their opinions heard."  

The festival opens Tuesday night with "American Promise," which captures the lives of two African American boys navigating the prep school process from age 5 past their high school graduation. The film earned a Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival last month.

Next week, Mrs. Ebert and Chicago Urban League President and CEO Andrea L. Zopp will team up for a joint appearance on the Cliff Kelly Show on WVON 1390 AM Radio. Ebert also will talk about the new documentary film "Life Itself," based on Roger Ebert's autobiography, which premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival.

Established in 2012, the Chicago Urban League's Black History Month Film Festival is presented annually as a forum to engage the community in honoring the achievements of African Americans, examining current community challenges and exploring strategic solutions that can lead to an empowered future.

"We want young people to think critically about how African Americans are portrayed in films and to discuss in an open forum their social impact and importance," Zopp said. "Roger Ebert had a lot of fans in the African American community, and he supported Black cinema early and often. I'm delighted that Chaz Ebert reached out to us to share his enduring legacy with a new generation of film critics."

Mrs. Ebert will also talk about "Life Itself," her marriage to Roger, and future plans on Chicago's "Windy City Live" television show at 11 a.m. on February 11. Later that day, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Roger Ebert's alma mater, will honor him with the Illinois Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism at the University Club in Chicago.  The award recognizes individuals whose work has consistently served as a beacon for other journalists and set the highest standards of excellence in the field.

Here is the remaining film festival lineup:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 6:00 PM

The Central Park Five, by directors Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sara Burns, recounts the 1989 case of five black and Latino teens who were arrested, charged and wrongly convicted of brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park. The case and the public and media scrutiny of black and Latino youth that followed and the tragic aftermath is explored in this film.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014  6:00 PM

Dark Girls, directed by Bill Duke, is a fascinating and controversial documentary film that goes beneath the surface to explore the prejudices that dark-skinned women face throughout the world. It delves into the roots of classism, racism and the lack of self-esteem within a segment of cultures that span from America to the most remote corners of the globe.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 6:00 PM

Chi-Raq, a short documentary that delivers a decisive blow with an intimate and slightly graphic look at the youth-driven violence plaguing the Chicago area.

About the Chicago Urban League
Established in 1916, the Chicago Urban League works for economic, educational and social progress for African Americans and promotes strong sustainable communities through advocacy, collaboration and innovation. For more information, visit

SOURCE Ebert Digital

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