Ebertfest 2013 Dance Along from Ebertfest on Vimeo.

People claim they want their funerals to be celebrations of their lives, but it's a hard thing for a lot of us to pull off. Roger Ebert wasn't like a lot of us, though, either in life or in death. Just a few weeks after his death from cancer, the 15th annual Ebertfest kicked off in Champaign, Illinois. While it wasn't an official memorial event for the critic, it inevitably turned into that anyway-- and according to all in attendance, the emotional highlight was this jubilant, energetic dance party led by none other than Tilda Swinton.

With Barry White's "You're The First, My Last, My Everything" blasting into the theater, Swinton leapt down the aisles, led the audience in a conga line and cajoled the entire crowd to get on their feet-- even the people too old or stodgy to dance at least shook their hips a bit. Though the event wasn't technically a tribute to Ebert himself, Swinton did call it a "spiritual service," and those who attended said repeatedly that the entire event felt like a memorial for Ebert, even if nobody had actually planned it that way.

For more on Ebertfest you can read Matt Singer's excellent write-ups at Criticwire, one of which opens up with "Roger Ebert its talking to us. This is not a film festival. It's a film seance." If that sentence is a little too unnerving for you, watch the video again. The sight of Chaz Ebert, Roger's wife, dancing onstage while Swinton leaps into the audience ought to cheer anyone up. You can also do worse than to look over the brief collection of Ebert's work that we put together after Ebert's death.

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