So many film festivals, so little time. In choosing from among the bewildering proliferation of cinematic fests sprouting up from the ground like mushrooms after a spring rain, one little word this week may help you decide whether it's worth the bother: wine. That's what the seventh annual California Independent Film Festival has going for it. The Livermore-based five-day fest -- tonight through Sunday -- offers indie shorts and features at a string of wineries, where you can relax with a glass of cabernet and a screening. The special guest tonight is filmmaker John Badham, who introduces his 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever at Livermore's Vine Cinema (1722 First St.). Tickets for the reception (7:30 p.m.) and screening are $50 from the Wente Vineyards box office, 925-456- 2400, or CAIndiefest.com -- Kelly Vance
When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, reporter Seymour Hersh (The New Yorker) did, in fact, see more. Not buying for one second that the Iraqi prison abuse that made a celebrity of sorts out of Pfc. Lynndie England was an isolated incident, Hersh traces the moral decay all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in "The Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib." Hersh will be the keynote speaker at the 2005 Mario Savio Memorial Lecture, which also features the presentation of the Young Activist Award. In a career of intrepid reporting that first came to the public's attention with his unveiling of the Vietnam-era My Lai massacre and included years of groundbreaking work at The New York Times, Hersh has established himself as the investigative reporter's investigative reporter. 7 p.m. at the MLK Student Union Building, UC Berkeley. Info: Savio.org -- Eric K. Arnold
Combining the best qualities of a jam-band and a reggae band, St. Croix-based Midnite has become a spearhead in the new-millennial roots revival movement. Since forming in 1997, the band has released at least twenty albums and side projects on various independent labels, including its own, Rastafaria, amassing an intensely loyal and dedicated fan base in the process. A Midnite show is a full-fledged, organic reggae experience: As loping, dubbed-out, extended grooves and one-drop riddims energize your body, conscious lyrics laden with biblical and historic references soothe your soul. Tonight, they open up a two-night stand at Berkeley's Shattuck Down Low Lounge (2284 Shattuck Ave.), and with any luck, they'll play "Where Are They Now" -- a song that traces the migrations and movements of indigenous tribes from ancient times until the present. Tickets are $25 in advance and $27 the day of the show; doors at 9 p.m. ShattuckDownLow.com -- E.K.A.
Joe Orton's play Loot shocked the bejabbers out of little old ladies in Bournemouth, England, when it first opened back in 1965. It remains to be seen whether the late ornery British playwright's dark farce about a pair of bumbling bank robbers matching wits with a provincial police inspector can achieve the same outrage in Alameda in 2005 -- but Altarena Playhouse is giving it a go. Altarena's production is directed by actor-turned-helmer Sue Trigg, and stars Dana Anderson, Chris Chapman, Daniel Dickinson, and Jonathan Ferro. Altarena sees it as a bit of Halloween fun, since the yeggs secrete the swag in a coffin and then hide the coffin's deceased occupant elsewhere. Loot runs through November 26 at 1409 High St., Alameda. Tix: Altarena.org or 510-825-2993. -- K.V.
To the tick-tock, ya don't stop. Back on the block for its fifth go-around, the Homo Hop Festival keeps getting bigger, deffer, and fiercer. The brainchild of pioneering agitprop rappers Deepdickollective, the event has grown from a small celebration of gay hip-hop to an internationally recognized cultural institution in its own right. And if you missed the first two shows in the three-night fest, there's still time to get down on it before Monday rolls around and turns you back into a pumpkin -- ya heard, Cinderellas and Cinderfellas? Tonight's show at 21 Grand (416 25th St., Oakland) features drag kings Nappy Grooves, local artists Kirya Traber, Jen Ro, Jaycub "Scarletto" Perez, Mid-One, Tru Bloo and the Redwine DJs, plus Compton's Nyah'Hri Suhalia and London's Ill Form and Mistermaker. $10 at the door. PeaceOutFestival.com or 510-496-3449. -- E.K.A.
If you're not too hungover from last night's extravaganza, keep your costume on and return to 21 Grand for more All Hallows Eve-themed fun -- which promises to be at least as scary as the previous evening's event. There's nothing like a night of offbeat movies -- stop-time animation, silents, etc. -- with eerie, improvised live music behind them to put you in a black-and-orange mood (or keep you there, after your presumably lost weekend). The lead act at tonight's Halloween Show is Ghostcandle Derby, an impromptu aggregation of Phillip Greenlief on reeds, Noah Phillips on guitar, and Lisa Mezzacappa (who also curated the creaky film images) on bass. More music: the octet Dystemic Orchestra, and selections from Arnold Schönberg played by arranger Jason Levis and an improv ensemble of voices, acoustic instruments, and analogue electronics. All this plus Bloody Marys and popcorn, too. $6-$10 sliding scale. All ages welcome. 21Grand.org -- K.V.
So you laid down a hefty wad of cash on a bells-and-whistles-laden digital camera (or received one as a gift), but still don't know what half the buttons are, much less how to properly program the damn thing. Unravel the mysteries of ISO, white-balance, and macro settings with REI Adventures guide and professional shutterbug Brandon Andre, who teaches a workshop in outdoor photography tonight at 7 at REI's Berkeley store (1338 San Pablo Ave.). $35 for REI members; $50 for nonmembers). Bring your camera. Call 510-527-4140 or stop by the store to register. -- E.K.A.
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