This week Press Play introduces Sight and Sound Film Poll: Critics' Picks, a series of video essays featuring prominent film critics on films they selected for Sight and Sound magazine's poll of the greatest films of all time. New videos will premiere each week until the poll results are announced later this summer.
To start off the Critics' Picks series, why not have the most famous film critic in the world? Roger Ebert needs no introduction, but his impact on film culture is something we have long taken for granted, and extends beyond his 45 years of film reviewing and television celebrity. His reach is felt even within the Sight and Sound Poll – as I wrote in Press Play's roundtable discussion of the poll, it was Ebert who first brought the poll to my attention as a teenager reading his Movie Home Companion, where he analyzed the 1982 poll results and shared his own top ten, distilled in a series of exquisitely crafted paragraphs. That book and those paragraphs initiated my own love of film criticism, and form the basis for this video essay.
The passages that serve as the video's narration cover the four films from Ebert's 1982 list that remain on his freshly minted top ten for the 2012 Sight and Sound poll. In its own way, the video reflects more significant developments in his life than his updated top ten list. When a fight with cancer left Ebert unable to speak, he took to the web to express himself, convening a international community of movie lovers around his website and blog. That in turn led to the creation of a special section on his website, Roger Ebert's Far-Flung Correspondents, featuring film reviews and articles from people around the world. The site celebrates movies as a global phenomenon bringing people together across languages and cultures.
To honor that vision, this video features many of the Far-Flung Correspondents speaking Ebert's words in their own language. The video also reunites the two hosts of Ebert Presents at the Movies, Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, with Vishnevetsky bringing a multilingual twist to his voiceover. Also taking part are contributors to Roger Ebert's Demanders, the section of his site reviewing video on-demand titles.
It was extremely fortuitous that the production of this video coincided with Ebertfest, Ebert's personally curated annual film festival held at his alma mater, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Most of the participants of this video travelled to Ebertfest, making it the perfect opportunity to record them. Others recorded themselves remotely and sent their audio via email. All told, there are 20 contributors speaking ten languages, discussing four favorite films of one man whose writing proves that not only great films, but great film writing, can transcend humankind's boundaries. – Kevin B. Lee
Ali Arikan (Turkish)
Olivia Collette (Canadian French)
Wael Khairy (Arabic)
Scott Jordan Harris
Michael Mirasol (Tagalog)
Michal Oleszczyk (Polish)
Gerardo Valero (Spanish)
Pablo Villaça (Brazilian Portugese)
Grace Wang (Mandarin)
Kevin B. Lee
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (Russian)