Marlon Riggs reconsidered


It's been nearly ten years since Marlon Riggs' death from AIDS-related illness. With groundbreaking films such as Ethnic Notions, Color Adjustment, and Black Is, Black Ain't (which was completed posthumously), the award-winning filmmaker, educator, and poet simultaneously dissected ethnic stereotypes and served up a multifaceted vision of the changing meaning of blackness in America. However, for many, it's Tongues Untied, which examines homophobia and racism facing black gay men, that stands as Riggs' most significant and controversial work. As one commentator noted, the documentary offers "mainstream America an insightful and provocative portrait of a distinct gay subculture -- complete with sometimes explicit language and evocative imagery." The 55-minute film, which Riggs called "an affirmation of the feelings and experiences of black gay men," was partially funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, sparking a firestorm of controversy regarding the content of government-funded art projects. In a 1989 interview, shortly after the film's premiere, Riggs talked about grappling with a question central to much of his life's work: "How do you embody [the experiences of a minority group] in a way that makes it real and human and understandable and sympathetic --even to viewers who don't feel that?"

This weekend, UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism presents Remembering Marlon Riggs, a trio of events celebrating his life and legacy. The tribute begins Friday at 7:30 p.m. with a screening of the award-winning film Tongues Untied at Pacific Film Archive (2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley). Advance ticket purchase --$8 general; $5 students and seniors -- is advised. Call 510-642-5249. The subsequent two events, both free at UC Berkeley's North Gate Hall (Room 105), crystallize Riggs' legacy through the eyes of his students, colleagues, and cohorts. On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Riggs' former film students "reflect on their mentor through clips of their work," while Sunday offers the film tribute I Shall Not Be Removed, followed by a panel discussion with various filmmakers at 6:30 p.m. Info: Journalism.Berkeley.edu/events -- Joy White



Lit Happens

Somewhere in space, an asteroid is named after Owen Gingerich. At Cody's Southside, hear the world-renowned Harvard astronomer giving props to history's most famous Pole as he reads from The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Wait for Godot during a long day's journey into night by joining the Teen Playreaders at the Berkeley Public Library's North Branch (Wed., 5 p.m.). ... Jet-fighter girl, you make the rockin' world go round: Meet sci-fi fave Susan Grant, whose novel The Legend of Banzai Maguire shoots an Air Force hottie into the future, and ElizaBeth Gilligan, whose The Silken Shroud invokes Gypsy vengeance, at The Book End in Newark (Sat., 2 p.m.). ... Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo -- aka The Princess Diaries' titular teen -- is back and angling for a prom date in Princess in Pink, the fifth of Meg Cabot's popular novels about a regular kid gone regal. Meet Cabot at Barnes & Noble Dublin (Mon., 7 p.m.). ... Fresh from Natchez, Mississippi, poet Peter Buttross reads at Pegasus in downtown Berkeley with Poetry Flash editor Joyce Jenkins. An open mic starts things off (Mon., 7 p.m.). ... Working on a supercomputer for the US government, Dr. Kwok dies horrifically in Hong Kong, and thus begins The Labyrinth Key, in which machines become gods and gods become machines. Nebula Award nominee Howard V. Hendrix reads at Dark Carnival (Sun., 2 p.m.). ... Having transformed what-I-did-last-summer into a major 20th-century literary genre, Paul Theroux is America's most unflinchingly observant traveler. At Diesel, he talks about Africa and his New York Times bestseller, Dark Star Safari (Mon., 7:30 p.m.). ... The Little Red Book isn't set in stone, as journalist Ian Johnson learned while interviewing ordinary people fighting imprisonment and oppression in China. Sponsored by UC Berkeley's Institute of East Asian Studies, he discusses his book Wild Grass on the sixth floor of 2223 Fulton St. in Berkeley (for details, call 510-642-2809) (Tue., 5 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus

SAT 4/3

Pitcher This

The Bay Area's favorite hobo-core quartet brings its blues-hollerin', yarn-spinnin' self to Cafe Van Kleef this weekend. Rube Waddell plays like Fred Sanford's garage on fire, mixing up the junk percussives, slide and one-string guitars, washboard, banjo, mariachi brass, and more to make a racket that's part Tom Waits, part Leadbelly, and part Fugs. If all that sounds just a little too much, consider who the band is named for: a hard-drinking lefty pitching legend known as much for his strikeout acumen as he is for his alligator wrestling, store-window automaton impersonations, bartending ability, and zany contract requisites. That guy made it work, and so do Mahatma Boom Boom, Reverend Wupass, and Captain Legit. Van Cleef's is at 1621 Telegraph Ave., and as usual, the music starts at 10 p.m. and cover is $5. 21 and up, please. 510-763-7711. -- Stefanie Kalem

THU 4/1

Pants? Who Needs 'Em?!

Bon fromage á la cigogne

Putting their high school French to the test, and then some, are Les Sans Culottes, a Brooklyn septet who apply a grab-bag garage-band aesthetic to the yé-yé pop of Serge Gainsbourg, et al. Though the band members have the best names since tongue met cheek -- Celine Dijon, Jean Luc Retard, Cal D'Hommage, et cetera -- and LSC waits only one song into their third album, Faux Realism, to engage in a shouted chorus of "Balzac!," the melodies are often lovely, the players are tight, and the vocal interludes of Dijon and Kit Kat le Noir fill out the sound with girl-group gold. And the band obviously knows its musical history --"SOS Elephants," a tale of zoo animal rebellion, borrows respectfully from the Kinks, the Byrds, and Plastic Bertrand. Les Sans Culottes are on tour with René Risqué and the Art Lovers, fellow New Yawkers whom Time magazine called "America's Best Lounge Act." Let the glamour wash over you on April Fool's Day at the Stork Club, 2330 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, when the Proles also perform. $5, 21 and up. Info: 510-444-6174. -- Stefanie Kalem


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