CHICAGO (AP) Roger Ebert plans to attend his annual festival for overlooked movies this week, returning to public view for the first time since having cancer surgery.

The 64-year-old film critic had surgery June 16 to remove a cancerous growth on his salivary gland. He also had emergency surgery July 1 after a blood vessel burst near the site of the operation.

In a column in Tuesday’s Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert wrote that what happened was cancer of the salivary gland had spread to his right lower jaw. A segment of the mandible was removed, and two operations to replace that segment were both unsuccessful, “leading to unanticipated bleeding.”

A tracheostomy, which opens an airway through an incision in the windpipe, was done, meaning Ebert cannot speak.

“The doctors now plan an approach that does not involve the risk of unplanned bleeding. If all goes well, my speech will be restored,” he wrote.

Ebert will watch the ninth annual Overlooked Film Festival, which begins Wednesday night at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, from the audience. “I will be wearing a gauze bandage around my neck, and my mouth will be seen to droop.”

“I was told photos of me in this condition would attract the gossip papers,” he wrote. “So what?”

Eberet wrote that friends were worried about unflattering photos of him being taken and unkind comments being written. He wrote that he doesn’t care. “We spend too much time hiding illness.”

Ebert has been a film critic at the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967.

He has co-hosted the “Ebert & Roeper” television show with fellow Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper since 2000. Film critics and filmmakers have been subbing for Ebert during his recovery.

The Walt Disney Co.’s Buena Vista Television distributes “Ebert & Roeper.”

On the Net:

Roger Ebert:

Overlooked Film Festival:

Ebert & Roeper:

AP-ES-04-24-07 1426EDT

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