America: Land of the Impure Prior to the Holocaust, Jews believed that America was not, in fact, the land of the free, but rather the astrafina medina (impure land). This label was lifted after Hitler's horrors, when Hasidic Jews started to immigrate to the United States, mainly to Brooklyn. Acclaimed filmmakers Oren Rudavsky and Menachem Daum (himself a native of Hasidic Brooklyn) document the family and communal life of the Hasidic movement in A Life Apart: Hasidism in America. The film highlights the spiritual verve of the time and place and the struggle of re-establishing home and church in a land that was once unfit for God-serving folks. Stirring up the requisite amount of controversy, the directors give voice to neighboring blacks and Latinos who have strained relations with the Jewish community. They also manage to find unrest among Jews themselves, as the Hasidim are criticized by their fellow Jews for "spiritual arrogance." The documentary is narrated by unlikely duo Leonard Nimoy and Sarah Jessica Parker. A Life Apart opens today at the Opera Plaza (see Showtimes, Page 98, for screening times), 601 Van Ness (at Turk), S.F. Admission is $4.75-7.50; call 352-0810.
The Ol' Daughter-in-the-Tower Trick A little-known bit of Irish history: The opposing parties are the Formorians and the Tuatha De Danaan laborers. Balor of the Evil Eye is the Formorian tyrant who keeps the Tuatha De Danaan in check. When Balor's daughter is predicted to slay him, he locks her away in the tower. Naturally, she later encounters a member of the oppressed Tuatha De Danaan tribe, and much to her father's dismay, falls in love and bears a son, Lu Lamfada, "Lu of the Long Arm." The evil Balor throws the boy into the ocean and ... well, the best group to reveal the end of this tale is not the ruling Formorians themselves, but rather the Irish theater group Macnas. Macnas are best-known for their carnivallike street-opera parades. In their performance of Balor their use of mime, music, and movement captivates audiences even though they're not dancing in the streets. Directed and choreographed by Rod Goodall, Balor opens at 8 p.m. (and continues through Nov. 2) at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida (at 17th Street), S.F. Admission is $17.50-22.50; call 621-7797.
Panic Shmanic In the event that this year's proximity to the millennium has you in a panic, never fear. The folks at Venue 9 offer their idea of a soothing evening of music, multimedia performance, videos, and installations and they're calling it "Y2K: Operation Calm." Local artists group Process is pulling out the big guns to fight the Year 2000 bug -- y'know, the one that is single-handedly going to ruin the country because our computers aren't able to recognize dates after Dec. 31, 1999. "Operation Calm" is driven by performers like vocalist Phil Potestio from Poetic Justice, guitarists Bruce Fraser and Mike "064" Freeman from the Artichokes, poet Michael McElligott, and cellist Alex Kort. But wait, there's more. Conceptual artists Ian Pollock and Janet Silk will show their installation Museum of the Future, which explores the future, history, and now. "Operation Calm" will also turn to the audience for participation, so be prepared to play along, and hopefully shed all fears of the looming millennium. The event begins at 8:30 p.m. (also Friday and Saturday) at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $6-10; call 566-3646.
Don't Wanna Love Mark Morris Dance Group performs four, count 'em, four evenings of works set to music by Claudio Monteverdi, Henry Purcell, Jacques Ibert, and Lou Harrison. A unique compilation of dancers, musicians, and soloists collaborates to bring Morris' premieres of I Don't Want to Love and Lucky Charms, and repeat performances of One Charming Night and Grand Duo, to the stage. Love, set to seven madrigals by Monteverdi that are performed live by the Artek Singers, kicks off the program, followed by One Charming Night. Morris' Dance Group has an annual residency in Berkeley each season and in the past has performed with the likes of world premier cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The company begins its four-night run at 8 p.m. (and continues through Nov. 2) at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $24-48; call (510) 642-9988.
All Body and Souls Day The Body & Soul Conference conveniently takes place on All Souls' Day eve. For those trying to break away from the typical Halloween festivities and into something more grounding, the conference brings Maya Angelou to the stage. Angelou will host the opening night along with three Bay Area talents: singer and jazz storyteller Rhiannon, a cappella group SoVoSo, and folk tale-r Luisah Teish. The conference itself is an exploration of mind/body healing, spirituality, creativity, and social transformation. If you missed the Dalai Lama at the June Power of Nonviolence confab, this may be the next best thing. Opening night events start at 7:30 p.m. at Masonic Auditorium, 1111 California (at Jones), S.F. Admission is $25; call 392-4400. The conference runs through Nov. 2 at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in Union Square. Full admission is $319; for more information, call (800) 937-8728.
Posters Children Pre-radio and -television, how did we advertise? Posters, of course. The International Vintage Poster Fair is coming to town to hang (and sell) cultural bygones. Rare posters from Poland, such as one for Wojiech Fangor's 1956 film Picasso, show how modern art was able to penetrate the Iron Curtain. Others, like Anton Lavinsky's 1926 The Shoes, illustrate the artist's desire to educate the Russian population of the time. On a lighter note, some of the '80s posters include a Bally's shoe ad and if you're lucky, they may have some '80s rock band posters (probably in the lower price range, too). The dealers will be out, so get to the fair early. The fair opens at noon (also 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday) at Fort Mason Center, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $10 per day or $20 for a three-day pass; call 546-9608.