Halfway through a nice film about the spiritual aspects of death in a poor country, Ellen Bruno's commissioned work for "Bay Area Now 4: 4 x 4" takes a hard turn for the weirder. Suffice to say, there are Tibetan monks who are as gnarly as the characters in a Tarantino flick -- only they're Buddhists, so it's all in the name of peace and freedom. Can't say more without spoiling, other than that this combination of documentary and experimental film is seriously freaky and would probably make the MPAA barf. The other three works are just as brilliant, and more technically interesting. Caveh Zahedi's contribution, for example, is a sweet and witty ode to procrastination, starring the goofy, conflicted artist himself and a cast/crew of at least 10 in a "film within the film." Weather Underground director Sam Green turns in a story that should have been told long ago, MC'd by a surprisingly sensitive man: the guy in charge of a cemetery, who looks for all the world like a cartoonishly imagined CIA agent. The cemetery holds the grave site -- but no marker -- of Meredith Hunter, the 18-year-old killed by Hells Angels at the notorious Altamont Speedway concert in the late 1960s. The film's host, in a sharp suit and dark glasses, narrates the simple, sad facts, and skillfully manages to soften them without a trace of trivialization.
Best of all, though, is the plotless, almost psychedelic waterfront grit in Bill Daniel's signature Super 8 entry. Fans of the fringe-societal communities in Daniel's other films (houseboaters, train-hopping graffiti artists) are in for a treat -- this untitled piece bears the mark of a master showing off.
Screenings take place daily (except Mondays) at 3, 3:30, 4, and 4:30 p.m. through Sept. 25 in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Screening Room, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Free with gallery admission; call 978-2787 or visit www.ybca.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Summertime once afforded sun worshippers the opportunity to laze around on white, sandy beaches or swim out in cool, crystal waters -- that is, until they discovered how damaging those darn UV rays were to their skin. Good thing for Los Angeles-based artist Edgar Arceneaux, whose recent exhibit "Borrowed Sun" brought the planetary system's central star indoors, where it could be appreciated from a safer vantage point. Inspired by his passion for language and science and his interest in creating startling connections between words, objects, places, and people, Arceneaux's room-size installation utilized graphite drawings on vellum, a large-scale concrete sculpture, slides, and film to conjure cosmically inspired free-jazz musician Sun Ra, minimalist artist Sol LeWitt (whose first name means "sun" in Spanish), and 17th-century astronomer Galileo, who proved that the Earth revolves around the sun. Featuring selections from "Borrowed Sun" such as Broken Sol, The Immeasurable Equation, and Cycle a Single Moment, "New Work: Edgar Arceneaux" opens at 11 a.m. Friday (and runs through Nov. 27) at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free-$12.50; call 357-4000 or visit www.sfmoma.org.
-- Joshua Rotter
Snelling tricks the eye
Tracey Snelling builds intricate houses, apartments, and shops in dollhouse dimensions, but these aren't soothing tableaux fit for a child. Her gritty, nostalgically shabby dwellings bear the mark of bygone eras, with blinking neon signs, televisions flickering from open windows, and muffled voices filling rooms -- she may even throw in running water and motorized movement. A sculpture might stand on its own, but typically Snelling will photograph it from various angles; with the scale masked, it's easy to mistake the models for real structures, and narrative bleeds from the work. You can't help but imagine the lives within, led by visual clues placed by the artist.
Snelling's Convenient appears in "Solos," a trio of concurrent individual exhibitions, along with Luis Delgado's jumbo images of U.S. presidents, POTUS, and Cynthia Greig's Representations. The opening reception is at 5 p.m. Tuesday (and the show continues through Sept. 10) at SF Camerawork, 1246 Folsom (at Eighth Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-1001 or visit www.sfcamerawork.org.
-- Michael Leaverton
An accomplished filmmaker, Leslie Neale wanted to make a positive contribution to her community, so she taught a basic video production class at Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall. But what started out as community service turned into a personal quest to expose the hypocrisies of the so-called juvenile justice system with her documentary Juvies. As she explains in the director's statement, "scores of children are getting thrown away in adult prisons instead of staying in the rehabilitative environment of the juvenile system." Her arresting film follows several underage offenders, such as 16-year-old Duc, the driver of a car from which a passenger fired a shot. Though no one was hurt and Duc had no prior offenses, he was given 35 years to life. A Q&A with Neale follows the screening, as well as readings by local author and ex-ward of the state Stephen Elliott and slam poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Juvies unspools at 7 p.m. at CELLspace, 2050 Bryant (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $10-20; call 648-7562 or visit www.stephenelliott.com.
-- Jane Tunks