Downstream 

River of history

8/29-1/22

Along its 1,775-mile length, from the meeting of the Brigach and Breg rivers in the Black Forest region of Germany, to Romania, where it debouches into the Black Sea, the Danube flows through or helps form the borders of ten countries -- countries that over the centuries have certainly weathered more than their fair share of names, political systems, and wars. In an interactive multimedia installation opening Monday at Berkeley's Magnes Museum, the Hungarian documentary filmmaker and artist Péter Forgács and the Labyrinth Project (an art collective out of USC's Annenberg Center for Communication) have collaborated to portray the river's role in three different World War II narratives. The Danube Exodus: The Rippling Currents of the River -- based on Forgács' award-winning 1999 found-footage film, The Danube Exodus -- examines experiences of wartime displacement. It is a multifaceted exploration, involving Slovakian Jews heading downriver away from the Nazis and ultimately toward Palestine; and ethnic German farmers from Bessarabia (now part of Moldova) voluntarily heading in the other direction to be repatriated as a result of the Soviet annexation. Despite being on opposite sides of the war, the groups are linked -- not just by the Danube, but also by the person of Nándor Andrásovits, a Polish-Hungarian naval captain and amateur filmmaker with a Ph.D in political science. Andrásovits helmed the boats that transported the emigrants across Europe, and his documentary footage was used to compile the film. His own enigmatic story -- and the story of the Danube itself -- forms the third narrative. The films, projected onto five screens and accessed by a touchscreen monitor, are complemented by a soundtrack from sound designer Jim McKee, who has woven together folk tunes, prayers, voiceovers, and ambient sounds with music by a faithful Forgács collaborator, the minimalist composer Tibor Szemzö.

In upcoming weeks the Magnes will also be presenting several related events, including a conversation between Forgács, California College of the Arts graduate studies dean Larry Rinder, and Israeli artist Larry Abramson on September 11 and a colloquium on Forgács' work on October 30. The exhibit runs through January 22 at 2911 Russell St., Berkeley. Info: Danube-Exodus.hu, Magnes.org, or 510-549-6950. -- Nora Sohnen

SUN 8/28

Showdown

Squeeze-Easy

The accordion may be the most ubiquitous instrument in the world, with the exception of the human voice. A staple of folk culture -- like rice and beans -- its expansive, air-driven sound makes it suitable for everything from zydeco to polka to punk. Although thoroughly identified with traditional music, the accordion is increasingly being used more progressively, and once again, Oakland's 21 Grand is on the cutting edge of a pop culture minitrend. Sunday's Monsters of Accordion is the third in what has become an annual event, and this year's bill features Seattle troubadour Jason Webley and locals Daniel Ari and Duckmandu, both quirky originals who aren't above covering Lynyrd Skynyrd songs on their squeezeboxes. $5-$10. 21Grand.org -- Eric K. Arnold

8/27-8/28

Family Style

The second phase of a unique artistic and social experiment will go on display this weekend in Oakland's Chinatown. As part of 100 Families Oakland: Art & Social Change , one hundred families from four neighborhoods (East Oakland, Chinatown, Fruitvale, and West Oakland) are participating in a year-long project to create family-themed paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints -- with the unifying idea that art connects families and neighborhoods. Saturday and Sunday, alongside the Oakland Chinatown Streetfest, the project's second public art piece -- created by lead artist Christine Wong and three others -- will be unveiled at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, 388 9th St. CCA.edu/center or 510-594-3763. -- Kelly Vance

THU 8/25

Downright Upright

With hits like "Rock This Town" and "Stray Cat Strut," the Stray Cats launched the '80s retro rockabilly craze, which has become more of a resurgence than a fad -- just ask Big Bad Voodoo Daddy or Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys. Now all grown up, original Cats upright bassist Lee Rocker comes to Concord's Todos Santos Plaza Thursday to further a tradition started by Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis back in the '50s. Speaking of the Eisenhower era, a screening of the musical Grease follows the show. It's cool for cats and kittens, and it's free. For more info, visit CommunityConcerts.com -- Eric K. Arnold

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