Nicole Sperling
April 02, 2009 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Roger Ebert made a rare public appearance today at the ShoWest convention where he received the ShoWest Career Achievement in Film Journalism Award. Beyond being heralded by the legendary directors of our time (Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, and Oliver Stone) in a pre-recorded video montage, Ebert received a heartfelt tribute from Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker. He referred to Ebert as one of independent film’s saviors and said, “Both personally and professionally, Roger means more to me than any other public figure.” Ebert then took the stage with his wife Chaz, who  read Ebert’s speech (the critic’s bout with throat cancer has left him unable to speak). Never a man to waste a public forum, Ebert asked theater owners to pay more attention to indie film, even dedicating one or two screens a weekend to the smaller, niche fare.

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