The Embarras Valley Film Festival (EVFF) celebrates its 11th year with the films of Richard Pryor. Held annually since 2004, this year’s festival will be held Nov. 13 and 14 at the Tarble Arts Center, Eastern Illinois University, 2010 Ninth St., Charleston, and at AMC Showplace Cinemas, 2509 Hurst Dr., Mattoon.
Born Dec. 1, 1940, in Peoria, Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor III became one of the most influential comedians in the history of comedy. Few comics today will talk about their own careers without mentioning the inspiration they received from Pryor. Three of his films will be shown during the two-day festival that includes afternoon and evening film screenings, including a family-friendly Saturday matinee.
The festival kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, in the Tarble Arts Center Atrium with the screening of “Car Wash” and an introduction by film critic Chuck Koplinski. “Car Wash” is about a close-knit group of employees who one day have all manner of strange visitors coming onto their forecourt, including Richard Pryor as the money-hungry preacher "Daddy Rich."
Koplinski has been participating in the EVFF since it inception in 2004. Having studied cinema at Columbia College in Chicago, he has been reviewing films for more than 20 years for Central Illinois publications including the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and Springfield’s Illinois Times. A member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and Chicago Film Critic's Association, he has a weekly film segment on WCIA-TV and Mix 94.5.
Saturday’s family matinee movie will have audiences singing along to the musical “The Wiz” beginning at 2 p.m. in the Tarble Arts Center Atrium. In this version of the classic story, Dorothy is a shy 24-year-old Harlem kindergarten teacher who is brought by a snowstorm to the mysterious Land of Oz.
The festival will conclude Saturday evening with the screening of “Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip” at 7 p.m. at AMC Showplace Cinemas in Mattoon. Recorded in 1982, the film was the most financially lucrative of the comedian's concert films. The material includes Pryor's frank discussion of his drug addiction. The album won a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording in 1982.
The Embarras Valley Film Festival’s mission is to encourage broader appreciation for and study of film as a potent vehicle for human expression and communication through the exploration of cinematic arts involving people from Illinois and alumni of EIU.
This year’s festival is sponsored by the Coles County Arts Council, City of Charleston Tourism funds, and EIU’s Film Studies Minor, Tarble Arts Center and Booth Library. Admission to all festival events is free and open to the public.