Aloha and Mahalo, Roger Ebert
Yesterday HIFF lost one of its greatest friends ever. Our dear pal and colleague Roger Ebert finally left us, after his brave, elegant battle. His disease took his physical voice but never, ever slowed his wit, wisdom, or positive attitude. An extraordinary champion of the Hawaii International Film Festival from his very first visit, Roger jumped right into HIFF and loved every minute of it. We all loved him back. His visits to HIFF were momentous occasions and added immeasurably to each Festival that he attended. His advocacy in HIFF’s early days helped put us on the map, helped unknown filmmakers achieve vital notice, and reinforced our focus upon Asian and Pacific cinema. He always helped us know that we were doing the right thing.
We deeply mourn his passing. What a fine gentleman, brilliant really, a class act. A champion of the independent filmmaker, he loved the window that cinema provides into all cultures, particularly when those films are made by the people who lived those stories. He liked that HIFF had films that he could see nowhere else and relished the enthusiasm, insights, and intelligence of HIFF’s audiences. An early supporter of HIFF’s Hawaii Filmmaker section, he helped us shine a spotlight on our local talent. He was a wise advisor to HIFF’s filmmakers from throughout the world. Roger was particularly close to his dear friend, HIFF Founding Director Jeannette Paulson-Hereniko. To me personally, he was not only a good friend, but also a wise mentor and willing council.
Roger’s presence at HIFF doubled when he brought his wonderful wife and best friend Chaz. Roger not only had superb taste in cinema; he also knew to choose the most exquisite partner of all. He called Chaz his Angel, and what a team they became. Our love and Aloha go from us all to Chaz and to their children who surrounded Roger with love and support.
Roger became the most popular film critic ever through his wise, accessible film reviews and thumbs up attitude. He won countess Emmy’s for his wildly popular TV show, and was the first person ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Film Criticism. It was our singular honor to award him HIFF’s highest accolade, our 2010 Vision in Film Award, during his very last visit to HIFF.
While we are devastated, we know that Roger would want us all to remember him best by celebrating the art of cinema. As the lights go down and we share what Roger called “Democracy in the Dark,” let’s all fondly remember this remarkable man who had a special place in his heart for HIFF and everyone who attended. To Roger, we were all his good friends and colleagues.
Aloha and Mahalo our dear friend. We’ll see you at the movies…….
Executive Director, Hawaii International Film Festival