By Ray Pride



April 4, 2013

Chicago—The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago grieves with the Ebert family, Chicago, and film buffs everywhere on the passing of the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert.

Barbara Scharres, the Film Center’s Director of Programming for 37 years, has been a friend and colleague of Roger’s for over three decades. He has made numerous appearances at the Film Center over the years and Scharres has covered the Cannes Film Festival on Ebert’s behalf for the Sun-Times. Scharres said:

“Roger Ebert was one-of-a-kind.  He loved movies so much that he wanted everyone else to love them too.  This love was at the very core of his work, and he brought the rewards and joy of thinking about movies and talking and debating about movies to millions of people around the world.  This is his legacy—he made movies matter in a new way.”

“Roger was as generous in his criticism as he was astute.  His championing of American independents and other young filmmakers is well known.  He often used the power of his fame to focus attention on new talent; a review from Roger gave a welcome boost to many a young career.”

“He was the first film critic to recognize and fully utilize the power of social media.  He took dialogue about the movies he loved global, yet another way Roger found to fold others into film culture through his infectious enthusiasm.”

“Roger’s love for his beloved wife Chaz was a cornerstone of his life.  Roger and Chaz were long the royal couple of any film festival.  He was never happier than when she was next to him.”

“We at the Gene Siskel Film Center mourn along with Roger’s readers everywhere.  Our deepest sympathy goes to heroic Chaz; to all their extended family; to Roger’s longtime Sun-Times editor Laura Emerick; and to Roger’s most loyal assistant Carol Iwata.”

The Gene Siskel Film Center has had a relationship with Ebert since its inception when it was founded as The Film Center in 1972. Renamed after the late Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel in 2000, in recent years the Gene Siskel Film Center collaborated with Ebert on a number of events, including its Sophisticated Ladies benefit which honored Nicole Kidman in 2002 when Ebert interviewed her at its annual fundraiser, and in June 2003 at its annual benefit when he received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and led a Director’s Discussion with Andrew Davis and Harold Ramis. Roger also appeared at the Film Center in March 2002 for a book-signing of Roger Ebert: The Great Movies, followed by a rousing introduction of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb—which he called “arguably the best political satire of the century—presented as part of the series The Many Masks of Peter Sellers. The Film Center is also grateful for the generosity of the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation which supported its Black Harvest Film Festival. In 2012, in celebration of the Gene Siskel Film Center’s 40th Anniversary, Roger also lended his artistic talents which appeared in the form of an illustration which appears on the Gene Siskel Film Center’s tote bag.

Jean de St. Aubin, the Gene Siskel Film Center’s Executive Director said: “As everyone’s favorite film critic, an entertaining raconteur, Roger was an extraordinary communicator. Our hearts go out to Chaz, his great love and partner, and to his family. He will be greatly missed.”

Tonight, the Gene Siskel Film Center invites patrons and members of the public to sign a memory book—placed with flowers in its lobby next to the famous Victor Skrebneski portrait of Siskel and Ebert—that will be presented to Roger’s wife Chaz. De St. Aubin, will say a few words before the 6pm screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, named one of Ebert’s “Great Movies” this evening.

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The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is located at 164 N. State St. For more information, call 312-846-2800 (24-hour movie hotline) or 312-846-2600 (general information, 9:00 am-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday), or visit

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The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago celebrates 41 years of presenting cutting edge programs, independent and international cinema, premieres, retrospectives, and classic films. Internationally recognized for its original film programming, the Film Center is a vibrant cultural destination in Chicago that attracts a diverse and creative annual audience of over 80,000.

A leader in educating artists, designers, and scholars since 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers nationally accredited undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate programs to nearly 3,200 students from around the globe. Located in the heart of Chicago, SAIC has an educational philosophy built upon an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, giving students unparalleled opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities, while working with renowned faculty who include many of the leading practitioners in their fields. SAIC’s resources include the Art Institute of Chicago and its new Modern Wing; numerous special collections and programming venues provide students with exceptional exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and performances. For more information, please visit

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