Roger Ebert loved the movies in part for the stories they told. As he wrote, ”the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.” To Robert, these stories helped him leave himself and experience the world from a different perspective. For us, stories show what is possible even under extreme circumstances as well as how to live life to its fullest. Robert’s story in particular has shed light on the power of resiliency and optimism.
Example of Positivity
During Robert’s last years of life he returned to his “Alma Mater” (the hospital) 5 different times to treat a form of head and neck cancer. Yet, before his diagnosis he lived an incredibly busy life spent reviewing around 200 films a year, hosting the Siskel and Ebert TV series, attending festivals, and hosting his own Ebertfest where he would talk about films and take questions from the large audience at the festival there to hear his opinions.
Yet, even after his diagnosis Roger didn’t give up his work. Along with his wife Chaz, Roger worked on building a new website to host his blog, film reviews, share news, and archives of his interviews, film festival coverage and pictures. He did this because he wanted to continue watching movies and staying socially connected with all of his fans and followers. He even allowed Director Steve James to film him during his last months and create the documentary Life Itself.
In line with his personality, Roger never wanted to hide his diagnosis. He let the public know when he was a recovering alcoholic and he let them know when he was first diagnosed with cancer. Yet, both diagnosis never stopped him from being great. Even after his fourth readmission, Roger took on even more work with the filming of Life Itself and continued writing film reviews while undergoing treatment. In the documentary, you can tell that his work brought him a lot of joy while in the hospital undergoing treatments.
Roger event writes on his blog that during the last year of his life he wrote over 50% more film reviews than usual. In his last entry he also writes, “on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness,” which explains a lot about Roger’s personality.
Today, most will remember Roger for his onscreen personality and "two-thumbs up" reviews. Yet, the story of how optimistic and hard working he was while undergoing cancer treatment is without a doubt an equally inspiring story.