One of the reasons 9/11 so stupefied our country is that we're not used to seeing war on our own soil. We're also unused to seeing war's blood, carnage, and dehumanization, because media outlets choose what to show based on concerns about taste and sales. So while images of the falling towers will be ingrained in our memories forever (as a result of the incessant airing of video clips on TV), we may forget about wars taking place in other countries because we don't see the casualties firsthand.
SF Camerawork encourages us to confront the atrocities caused by the American war machine through two exhibitions. "Killer Shots: A Photographic Response to War" documents the past 30 years of absurd and gory battles on foreign soil, including jarring pictures from Vietnam and bizarre images of veiled Iranian women training to shoot the enemy just outside of Tehran. The companion exhibit "Moving Targets: The Art of Resistance" focuses on opposition movements in the United States and alternative methods of photojournalism. The opening reception is tonight at 5, and both can be seen through March 20 at New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom (at Eighth Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-1001 or visit www.sfcamerawork.org.
-- Karen Macklin
Two Men's Trash
Given safety and leisure time, Bums' Paradise tells us, everyone is creative. The homeless people featured in the documentary, camped at the now-infamous Albany Bulb, are by turns expansive, irascible, and philosophical, and have faces as weathered as their artwork -- paintings executed on rock, sculpture constructed of debris. Video-makers Tomas McCabe and Andrei Rozen take their time exploring the marsh grass and lean-tos of this soulful utopia for the self-medicated, inferring a solution for homelessness everywhere: Give people space and leave them alone. Expulsion from Eden at the hands of jelly-bellied policemen follows the meanderings, scattering the poets and artists to no good end, and this laid-back testament ends on a dying fall ... and, like Genesis, the promise of rebirth.
The filmmakers appear in person for evening screenings at 7:15 and 9:15 at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is $6.50, with a $4.50 bargain show at 2 p.m. Wednesday; call 668-3994 or visit www.redvicmoviehouse.com.
-- Gregg Rickman
Minister of Silly Talks?
John Cleese, charitable fella
Just promise us you won't start doing the SPAM bit when actor/comic/geek icon John Cleese takes on a new role: defender of the Esalen Institute. A hangover from El Niño's swath of 1998 coastal destruction has left Esalen, home to alternative workshops and classes since 1962, with a cash crunch, one it hopes to ease with "John Cleese's Life and Times," an intimate stage show benefit featuring an Inside the Actors Studio-style interview by KQED-FM Forum host Michael Krasny and clips from Cleese's most celebrated TV and film appearances. Expect the Spanish Inquisition at 7:30 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Admission is $30-150; call 392-4400 or visit www.esalen.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
Show Us Yours
An idea whose time has come: open mike night for filmmakers. At the handsomely named "Open Shorts," low-budget auteurs-to-be can bring in works of eight minutes or less, throw 'em up on the screen, and see what sticks. The term "film" is euphemistic here -- only VHS- or DVD-formatted pieces are admitted, starting at 7 p.m. at the Canvas Gallery, 1200 Ninth Ave. (at Lincoln), S.F. Admission (and screening) is free; call 504-0060 or visit www.thecanvasgallery.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser