Most film festivals can be summed up as a party, a marketplace or a platter of cultural fruit and vegetables. Ebertfest, now 14 years old, is a love-in.
Chaz Ebert presides over the film screenings the way my mother used to usher people into her kitchen and fix them a heaping plate. Chaz's famous husband Roger selects the films they show with an emphasis on love and understanding. The characters in Ebertfest films are motivated by love, hobbled by obstacles to understanding.(9)
Like a good writer, Shalom Auslander knows that he should be contradictory. The fun for him is in deconstructing each fluctuation of thought, turning a conversation with himself into a dialectic, considering both the pros and cons of life, death, hope, and despair. In Hope: A Tragedy, this back-and-forth appears as therapy sessions between Solomon Kugel and his therapist, Professor Jove, a celebrity doctor who keeps a kind of anti-inspirational poster with the words "Give up" on his office wall: "It was hope, according to Professor Jove, that was keeping Kugel up all night," the narrator tells us. "It was hope that was making him angry."(1)