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Roger Ebert
will receive the Mel Novikoff Award at the 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival (April 22–May 6). The award, named for the pioneering San Francisco art and repertory film exhibitor Mel Novikoff (1922–87), acknowledges an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the filmgoing public’s knowledge and appreciation of world cinema. The Novikoff Award will be presented at An Evening with Roger Ebert and Friends, Saturday, May 1 at 5:30 pm at the Castro Theatre. Confirmed guests to date include directors Jason Reitman and Terry Zwigoff, with others to be announced soon.

The program will close with a screening of Julia, touted by Ebert as one of the finest films released in 2009. Erick Zonca’s character-driven thriller, starring the fearless Tilda Swinton, barrels straight into the sleazy wasteland of an abrasive alcoholic kidnapper who is in way over her head.

“It’s an honor to pay tribute to a man who has enhanced the public’s knowledge and appreciation of world cinema for more than 40 years through his writing, television shows, Web site and film festival,” said Rachel Rosen, the Film Society’s director of programming. “His passion for film is an inspiration.”

Ebert has reviewed, commented on, debated and championed movies from his base in Chicago for over four decades. He began his career at the Chicago Sun-Times in 1966 and in 1975 became the first film writer to win a Pulitzer Prize for criticism. He is now syndicated in more than 200 papers around the world and rogerebert.com, the most-visited movie critic site on the Web, was named the best film review site of the year by the Online Film Critics Society. Ebert’s long career in television began in 1975 when he and Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune began cohosting a weekly program of movie reviews produced by a Chicago public television station. The critics (and later their thumbs) became household names when their show, Sneak Previews, was syndicated to public television stations nationwide. Their viewership and impact increased further when they moved to At the Movies and then to Siskel & Ebert, both commercially syndicated shows. Following Siskel’s death in 1999, Ebert paired up with columnist Richard Roeper of the Sun-Times and cohosted Ebert & Roeper until 2007. Additional TV stints have included hosting ABC’s live pre–Academy Awards show and cohosting IFC’s coverage of the Cannes Film Festival awards.

Ebert has authored numerous books including Scorsese by Ebert; three volumes of The Great Movies; 20 annual volumes of Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook; Your Movie Sucks; Two Weeks in the Midday Sun, A Cannes Notebook; I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie; and the Norton anthology Roger Ebert's Book of Film. He has lectured on film for the University of Chicago’s fine arts program, was an adjunct professor of cinema and media studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was renown for his sessions conducting shot-by-shot analyses of films at the universities of Colorado, Hawaii, Virginia and Chicago, the Smithsonian Institution and the Canadian Center for the Advanced Study of Film. His shot-by-shot commentary track for the DVD of Citizen Kane won the 2001 Video Premiere Award for Best Audio Commentary.

Since 1999 Ebert has hosted Ebertfest, an annual festival of overlooked films, presented at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s historic Virginia Theatre in his hometown.

In addition to the Pulitzer, Ebert’s significant contributions to film culture have been recognized by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an honorary lifetime membership in the Directors Guild of America, a special recognition award from the American Society of Cinematographers, a ShoWest award for career achievement in film journalism and honorary doctorates from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Colorado and the American Film Institute. He lives with his wife, trial attorney Chaz Hammelsmith Ebert, in Chicago.

Previous recipients of the Mel Novikoff Award are Bruce Goldstein (2009), Jim Hoberman (2008), Kevin Brownlow (2007), Anita Monga (2005), Paolo Cherchi Usai (2004), Manny Farber (2003), David Francis (2002), Cahiers du Cinéma (2001), San Francisco Cinematheque (2001), Donald Krim (2000), David Shepard (2000), Enno Patalas (1999), Adrienne Mancia (1998), Judy Stone (1997), Film Arts Foundation (1997), David Robinson (1996), Institut Lumière (1995), Naum Kleiman (1994), Andrew Sarris (1993), Jonas Mekas (1992), Pauline Kael (1991), Donald Richie (1990), USSR Filmmakers Association (1989) and Dan Talbot (1988).

Tickets are $12 for San Francisco Film Society members and $15 for general admission. Tickets are on sale now to Film Society members whose memberships are valid through the end of the Festival.
Saturday, May 1, 5:30 pm
Castro Theatre
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