Roger Ebert‘s film reviews were more than just a collection of words strung together for mass consumption. As the documentary Life Itself attests, Ebert put his heart and soul into his work and the people he loved, and his passion for writing and film continued even throughout his declining health. Director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) was given full access to Ebert and his wife Chaz, and their decision to be as candid as possible gives Life Itself a very honest look at a loving relationship that perseveres through much hardship.
“I was really struck by (Roger’s) relationship with Chaz,” said James in his director’s statement. “They’ve always appeared to have a great marriage, but witnessing it up close, I really came to understand that she had been many things to Roger: his great love, the person who helped him find true happiness and contentment, and his rock through the many medical challenges of recent years.”
During my interview with Chaz Ebert and Steve James, I asked Ebert how she developed her unfailing inner strength. For Chaz, much of those qualities came from growing up in a loving household. “When I have to give a short answer, I just say from love,” said Ebert. “Because I loved him so much. But it is more complicated than that. I grew up in a family where I was so supremely loved and I felt so secure in that love that – I have a tremendous capacity for love.”
To hear Chaz Ebert talk about her love for her faith and family, click on the media bar below (Steve James also chimes in with a humorous comment at the end of the clip):
Life Itself hits theaters, On Demand, and iTunes on July 4th. Interviewees on the documentary include filmmakers Martin Scorsese (who also executive produced the project), Ramin Bahrani (At Any Price), Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line), and Werner Herzog (Fitzcaraldo). Critics Richard Corliss, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and A.O. Scott are also interviewed.