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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See at Docfest

Even as the Mill Valley Film Festival draws to a close, the eighth San Francisco Documentary Festival is entering its opening weekend. (For tickets, visit the festival's official site.) An opening-night party, featuring complimentary beverages and a live performance by guitarist and four-stringed ukelele master Tippy Canoe, will be held tonight at Four Barrel Coffee on Valencia Street. Highlights of the festival include:

1. Shooting Robert King
Where:
Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: Oct. 16, 21
Why: "How many nameless dead bodies have I stepped over?" asks Robert King, the 38-year-old subject of Richard Parry's fascinating new documentary. A featured selection at last year's Toronto Film Festival, the film tracks King, an accomplished photographer whose work has appeared in Time, Newsweek and The New York Times, from his start in Bosnia to his remarkable treks through Chechnya and Iraq. The result is a harrowing portrayal of the harsh realities of war, and of one man's personal and professional growth over a 15-year period.

2. What's the Matter With Kansas?
Where:
Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: Oct. 18, 22
Why: Were working- and middle-class Midwesterners acting in their own best interests by helping elect George W. Bush to consecutive terms in the Oval Office? Filmmakers Joe Winston and Laura Cohen, adopting the premise of Thomas Frank's bestselling book, want to know. They travel to the heart of Middle America, once home to left-wing movements like the Populist Party, to determine the causes and effects of the region's newfound loyalty to the GOP.

3. Junior
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: Oct. 25, 27
Why: Born in North Beach, Eddie Belasco, 75, spent his formative years hanging on the corner, causing trouble, before inheriting his Uncle Dominique's interest in show business. From there, he founded The Belasco Four, a musical comedy troupe that regaled international audiences with their tight harmonies and schmaltzy jokes, and later managed the world's first (and only) topless band, The Ladybirds. Junior chronicles the final two seasons of his Northern California theater company, a nonprofit dedicated to honing the skills of young actors, and his bittersweet retirement.

4. American Artifact
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: Oct. 25, 28
Why: Featuring prominent Bay Area artists Chris Shaw, Winston Smith and Chuck Sperry, Merle Becker's Artifact recalls the birth of the iconic American rock poster, when San Francisco-based illustrators like Stanley Mouse and Victor Moscoso produced now-priceless artwork for groups including The Grateful Dead, Moby Grape and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Becker traces the evolution of the artform to discover that the rock poster is currently enjoying a 21st-century renaissance, thanks largely to the ease of digital screenprinting.

5. Dust & Illusions
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: Oct. 17, 22
Why: Olivier Bonin makes an impressively strong directorial debut with Dust & Illusions, which offers a warts-and-all history of Burning Man, from its roots as a small, countercultural experiment in radical self-expression to its present-day status as a full-fledged cultural phenomenon.

6. The Entrepreneur
Where:
Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: Oct. 16, 22
Why: Filmmaker Jonathan Bricklin follows his father Malcolm, creator of the infamously ill-fated Bricklin SV-1 sports car, as he travels the world in search of one last blockbuster deal. Malcolm's overtures are often met with polite rejection, but in China, where he delivers a jaw-dropping sales pitch not soon to be forgotten, his plans to develop a low-cost luxury sedan pique the interest of the country's leading auto manufacturers. Will a deal be struck? Watch and find out.

7. The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: Oct. 17, 20
Why: Supported by MTV Studios and executive producers Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine (Jackass), onetime punk rocker Julien Nitzberg introduces the world to the White family of Boone County, West Virginia, whose anti-social antics – among them, gas huffing, drug dealing, pill popping and murder – are the stuff of local legend.