A Tree Grows in Tennessee James Cromwell, the kindly farmer in Babe and the not-so-nice cop in L.A. Confidential, stars in The Education of Little Tree, which screens at a special benefit for the American Indian Film Institute. Cromwell is slated to attend the screening with co-star Tantoo Cardinal, of Dances With Wolves. The two play the grandparents of 8-year-old Little Tree (Joseph Ashton), a recently orphaned part-Cherokee youngster who moves to Tennessee to live with the old folks and learn about nature and his cultural heritage. The film, based on the novel by Forest Carter, shows at 7:30 p.m. at the Regency II Theater, 1268 Sutter (at Van Ness), S.F. Admission is $10; call 554-0525.
Sam He Am The Magic Theater gave playwright Sam Shepard's career a kick-start: It produced his play La Turista back in 1970, and when Shepard took up theatrical residency in 1975, the Magic produced several more of his plays, including Fool for Love, a kind of modern western that Robert Altman adapted into a film, and Suicide in B-Flat, the jazz-inspired musical murder mystery that's been revived twice locally this season. The mutual admiration between Shepard and the Magic culminates in SamFest, a performance and discussion marathon (with Shepard in attendance) that will include the renaming of the Magic's Southside Theater as the Sam Shepard Theater. The festival opens tonight with a marathon reading of Shepard's one-acts and early plays, followed by a staged Magic alumni reading of Fool for Love at 8 p.m. Friday and a panel discussion of his work at 4 p.m. Saturday. Longtime collaborator Joseph Chaikin reads their work War in Heaven and Shepard reads excerpts from Cruising Paradise and other selections at 8 p.m. Saturday. SamFest concludes Sunday at 4 p.m. with a staged reading of Shepard's newest play, Eyes for Consuela, the tale of a traveler and a native adapted from a story by the late Mexican writer Octavio Paz. The fest opens at 5 p.m. in the Magic Theater, Building D, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $10 (admission varies according to event); call 441-8001.
Sight Unseen Skepticism is the first and seemingly inevitable reaction to "Seeing the Unseen," an exhibit of photos shot by blind Czech children. Photographer Daniela Hornickova, a caretaker at Prague's Jaroslav Jezek Boarding School, is used to fielding the unavoidable questions; she wondered too, when she first began loaning her camera to curious kids in her care. But she was amazed by the results, and once she bought the children an automatic camera with sound controls, the youths began to take pictures relying on environmental cues other than sight. As she discovered, the blind kids don't take pictures the way sighted people would; depth of field shifts, and subjects emerge in fluttery close-up or off to one corner of the frame. In some sense, the pictures are free of photographic convention, and offer a truly unusual opportunity for viewers to reflect on perspective and vision. The exhibit opens with a reception at 5 p.m. (and is up through July 18) at the International Children's Art Museum, World Trade Center, Ferry Building, First Floor, Market & Embarcadero, S.F. Admission is 50 cents-$1; call 772-9977.
Something So Wright As the Reservoir Dogs DJ whom nobody saw but everyone heard, monotoned comedian Steven Wright was a perfect foil to the excesses of the film, from the on-screen violence to the over-the-top '70s rock he announced in a voice completely devoid of emotion. It wasn't a one-time role: Wright's laconic delivery is his distinguishing feature among comics willing to yell, pull goofy faces, haul out the props, or do whatever else it takes to get a laugh. Without inflection, expressions, or gestures as cues, Wright's surreal observations ("It's a good thing there's gravity, or else when birds died they'd stay where they were") can take a few moments to sink in, but the payoff is worth it. Live 105 morning host Johnny Steele opens the show at 8 p.m. at the Masonic Auditorium, 1111 California (at Jones), S.F. Admission is $16-19; call 885-0750.
666 for 9 Bucks Beginning with "Unholy Roller," the very first song on their album of the same name, the Electric Hellfire Club produce some good giggles. "S-A-T-A-N! He's our man! Hey!" the band shouts, to the tune of the squeaky-clean Bay City Rollers hit "Saturday Night." There's more, of course: wicked covers of the Mstley CrYe hit "Shout at the Devil" and the Kiss classic "Calling Dr. Love," and a bio that reads like a satanic movie of the week. Three of the band's four members hail from My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult (who helped write the book on cartoonish industrial metal), and they have toured with Gwar (who drew the pictures). Keyboardist Shane Lassen (aka the Rev. Dr. Luv) died two years ago in a car accident, but the band has persevered and will go on at 10:30 p.m. for the opening night of "Paradise Lost," a new 21-and-over monthly goth/industrial club organized by DJ Mephisto of "Death Guild," who spins tunes afterward. Doors open at 9 p.m. at the King Street Garage, 174 King (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $9; call 436-0669.
Play Time for Workers May 1 is the official International Workers Day in many parts of the world, although not here, where it has been essentially supplanted by Labor Day. Rather than urging folks to call in sick, the organizers of Reclaim May Day have scheduled their political and cultural arts festival for the weekend, when the average 9-to-5er can fully appreciate all those people who lobbied for the eight-hour workday. The daylong event begins with a commemoration of the Eight-Hour March held in 1865 and protests that followed over the years. With dance, poetry, theater, music, and giant puppets, artist and activist groups will restage historic and current events at sites along a procession from the foot of Market Street to Yerba Buena Gardens, where marchers will stop for skits and bagels. The party relocates to Dolores Park at 2 p.m. for a May Pole ceremony and picnic, live music, and the S.F. Mime Troupe performance of excerpts from Hotel Universe. Reclaim May Day begins at 10 a.m. at Justin Herman Plaza, Market & Steuart, S.F. Admission is free; call 285-9734.
It's Norway or the Highway The Viking crew, all 14 of them women, of the Viking war ship Embla lowers the gangplank to the public at this weekend's Norway Day Festival, a celebration of all things 'wegian. Besides the Vikings, who have publicly turned from pillagers to peaceniks and are participating as part of the minefields-to-vineyards conversion program Mines to Vines, the festival includes a fashion show of Norwegian folk costumes (called bunads), native food and drink specialties served by the Norwegian Seamen's Church women's guild, vendors selling sweaters, and a performance by Norwegian ragtime pianist Morten Gunnar Larsen. The fun begins at 10 a.m. (also Sunday) at the Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is free-$5; call 673-5311. Not to be outdone, the city's French are offering their annual Marche de Mai, a boutique stocked with books and magazines, chocolates, cheeses, and wine, and French CDs extending to Edith Piaf and beyond. It begins at 10 a.m. at the Alliance Française, 1345 Bush (at Polk), S.F. Admission is free; call 775-7755. And on Sunday, those Brazilians present the fourth Brazilian Arts and Crafts Festival, featuring harmonica master Damien, the pop band Nobody From Ipanema, Carnaval dancers Birds of Paradise, and traditional food and arts. It begins at 11 a.m. next door to the Norway Festival -- which is about as close as Brazil and Norway may ever get -- in Building A, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is free; call (510) 215-2658.
Aquamen Toby Morse came to front his own band through the back door. When Morse was roadie-ing for Sick of It All, he began singing the song "All My Love" at the end of shows as a joke, but after a while, fans began to ask for him, and Sick of It All finally suggested that maybe Morse should start his own damn group. He did, and since then, H20 have become the darlings of New York's hardcore scene, invoking breathless comparisons to 7 Seconds and the Misfits, with whom H20 have toured. Morse, with members of Outcrowd, plays two all-ages shows: with Fury 56 and Vision at 8:30 p.m. tonight; and Powerhouse, Pressure Point, and Fahrenheit 451 at 8:30 p.m. Monday at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $7 each night; call 621-4455.
Scream to a Whisper L.A.'s mid-'80s "Scream scene," named for the club that helped spawn Guns N' Roses and Jane's Addiction, also produced Human Drama, who contributed the track "Waves of Darkness" to the Geffen compilation Scream. From there the band bounced from RCA to Triple X Records, and with their latest release, 14,384 Days Later, Human Drama retrace their relatively long history with the inclusion of the Scream song and singer Johnny Indovina's RCA-era cry for help "I Bleed for You." Human Drama lean more toward human melodrama -- Indovina sounds like he's trying to outmelancholy the late Peter Murphy's solo work -- but if the lyrics are a tad silly ("Push a pin into my arm/ I will bleed like anyone") the music, driven by strings, flute, keyboards, and swirly psychedelic guitar, is pretty in a goth sort of way. Human Drama play two shows, at 4 and 9 p.m., at Big Heart City, 836 Mission (at Fourth Street), S.F. Admission is $5 per show; call 777-0666.
Bitch Nation Elizabeth Wurtzel is controversial in two different ways. For one, she's a self-styled cultural provocateur whose two books, Prozac Nation and the new Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women, have generated no little comment in the mainstream press for their respective takes on twentysomething depression and, well, bitches. A lot of the criticism she's engendered is a good example of the double standard for women that is one of her themes. For the other, however, she's generated a lot of deserved derision for bad writing (her painful stint as the New Yorker's rock critic) and her undisciplined and seemingly unedited writing style. Still, as the new book shows, she has a voracious, vacuumlike mind when it comes to assembling images and themes in pop culture, and her defense of society's female problem children is long overdue; her reading tonight should not be boring. She appears at 7 p.m. at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-8688. (Bill Wyman)