If the organizers of the fourth annual Arizona Black Film Showcase achieve their mission statement -- "to become the premier, national media arts event dedicated to supporting black film professionals" -- Phoenix could hatch a Spike Lee for the 21st century. On Thursday, February 10, three local indie filmmakers who've got a head start on the competition -- Andrea Magwood, An'Tony de'Shay and Gerald Smith, along with panel moderator Denise Meridith -- lead a panel discussion titled "Black Film Is American Film" at the Burton Barr Central Library's Pulliam Auditorium, 1221 North Central Avenue, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The discussion, which sets the stage for the showcase a week later, is "a retrospective look at the history of black film and a dialogue on its future." All three filmmakers are showcase award winners. Admission is free. Call 602-534-0603 or see www.azblackfilm.com.
Now, we know to shout "Opa!" when downing a shot of ouzo, that not all Greek girls are as homely as Nia Vardalos, and that Jimmy the Greek was a moron. But the Chandler Greek Festival promises something we definitely did not know -- there are Greeks in Chandler?! Apparently so, as the festival kicks off on Friday, February 11, at the Chandler Community Center, 125 East Commonwealth Avenue, through Sunday, February 13. The festival features a Greek buffet George Papadopoulos would kill for, carnival rides, and a live Greek band. You can also learn how to dance Greek-style à la Zorba, natch, or just watch the high-kickin' Athenian hoedown for yourself. Admission is $1 to $2. Call 480-899-3330 or see www.chandleraz.org.
Still wondering how Ringo got blisters on his fingers? Check out the all-night DrumFest 2005 at the Clubhouse, 1320 East Broadway Road in Tempe, on Saturday, February 12, where local drummers pound the skins (including their own) starting at 5 p.m. to benefit the VH1 Save the Music Foundation as well as local music education charities. Pro-Mark, Modern Drummer magazine, and Power Stix are among the sponsors for the event. Chandler's Chop Shop Custom Drums hosts the DrumFest, which features bands Evolocity, Sinner Lane, Article 13, Tempe's "punk princesses" The Dames, Chop Shop president Brian Cocivera and his band Temple of Fire, and, hot off appearances on MTV's Battle for Ozzfest, Storm Within. The DrumFest also promises a giveaway of free studio time at Tempe's Villain Recording, and an appearance by the Renegade Rollergirls. Admission is $10. Call 480-782-0915 or see www.chopshopdrums.com.
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It's been a painful new year for local soul man -- make that "The Original Soul Man" -- Ronnie Whitehead. First, the 53-year-old crooner suffered a heart attack onstage at Skipper's Lounge on January 8. Then he had quadruple bypass surgery a couple days later. On Sunday, February 13, the Rhythm Room, 1019 East Indian School Road, hosts a Ronnie Whitehead All-Star Benefit Show starting at 8 p.m. Whitehead's girlfriend, Kati Ingo, headlines the show with her band Sistah Blue, along with Bluzone, Uvon and the Blues Wizards, Dennis Rowland, Patt Williams, Big Pete Pearson, and more than a dozen other acts. Admission is a minimum $5 donation at the door. Call 602-999-6162 or see www.rhythmroom.com.
After blowing your wad on the Olive Garden's "Tour of the South" and a dozen carnations from Bashas', you might as well dig deep, Don Juan, to cap off that memorable Valentine's Day you've been planning for the past, say, two hours. Take her somewhere dark and cozy with an air of mystery and hip barflies about. Shoot for more than a goodnight kiss and show her your inner Bukowski at the Emerald Lounge, Seventh Avenue and McDowell, on Monday, February 14, when Vic Masters, Mark David Chapman and Andrew Lockwood celebrate the two-year anniversary of Love Lounge, starting at 9 p.m. The original LL lineup promises no cover charge and "free love for every third audience member." See www.theemeraldlounge.com.
So Robert Thurman is the "greatest American expert on Buddhism." He's even written a book that promises to break down the ancient spirituality in layman's terms, The Jewel Tree of Tibet, which he'll sign and discuss on Tuesday, February 15, at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6824 South McClintock Drive in Tempe. In the 1960s, Thurman traveled to Tibet in search of spiritual sustenance, which he gained from the teachings of some of Buddha's most enlightened masters. Suffice it to say, a guy who's learned not to focus on the "I" likely isn't perturbed by so-called fans who ask more questions about his daughter, Uma, than about the Tao of Pooh. Still, we'll be there to shake hands with the first Westerner ordained by His Holiness the Dalai Lama rather than asking for the former Mrs. Ethan Hawke's digits. Thurman -- Robert, not Uma -- will appear beginning at 7 p.m. Call 480-730-0205 or see www.changinghands.com.
Now we know why the homeless choose to live on the streets: for fame and infamy, of course! Not really -- it just seems that way, given local showcases of films like the "docudramedy" Have You Seen CLEM? last summer at the Paper Heart, and the Wednesday, February 16, showing of Out of the Cage at Modified Arts, 407 East Roosevelt Street. Director Matthew Marchisano's documentary was shot over two weeks in Hollywood, San Diego and Phoenix with a small crew, to keep the homeless comfortable and candid. The film offers "an unflinching look into the lives, politics and realities of people living on the streets." Admission is $6 for either the 6:30 or 7:45 p.m. showings. Call 602-462-5514, or see www.modified.org.