Roger Ebert’s salivary gland cancer spread to his right lower jaw. Part of his mandible had to be removed. It’s not pretty and he can’t speak.
Tomorrow night his Ninth Annual Overlooked Film Festival opens at the University of Illinois at Urbana.
Most folks in this condition (especially public figures) would stay away from the event in order to hide from the cameras and gawking gazes. Ebert says no way.
I was told photos of me in this condition would attract the gossip papers. So what?... I have been very sick, am getting better and this is how it looks. I still have my brain and my typing fingers. We spend too much time hiding illness. There is an assumption that I must always look the same. I hope to look better than I look now. But I’m not going to miss my festival.
And what a positive attitude:
Why do I want to go? Above all, to see the movies then to meet old friends and great directors and personally thank all the loyal audience members who continue to support the festival. At least, not being able to speak, I am spared the need to explain why every film is “overlooked,” or why I wrote “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.” Being sick is no fun. But you can have fun while you’re sick. I wouldn’t miss the festival for anything!
I can’t imagine I’d have this kind of courage. Check that: I know I wouldn’t. It’s such an inspiration to see Ebert approach his current condition and life with such optimism. What a wonderful thing.