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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

Not wanting to boldly go where millions are already planning to be this weekend? (Hint: We're not talking about Ben Vereen's Saturday night gig at Hotel Nikko.) If so, there are plenty of alternatives to space-based fantasy awaiting you at the city's indie theaters.

1. Sita Sings the Blues
Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: May 8-12
Why: Alternative cartoonist and onetime San Francisco resident Nina Paley is officially on a roll. Following the abrupt dissolution of her marriage – her ex ended it via e-mail – she began exorcizing her frustrations through a series of animated shorts inspired by the Indian tale of Ramayana and set to the vocals of 1920s jazz legend Annette Hanshaw. Now comes the feature-length fruit of her labors – Sita Sings the Blues, a profoundly personal work of staggering visual brilliance that makes its area debut this week at the Red Vic.

2. Lemon Tree
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: After charming American audiences as the mother of an imprisoned immigrant in last year’s The Visitor, Hiam Abbass delivers an even more galvanizing performance here, as a Palestinian widow waging a personal war against the Israeli government over the fate of her beloved lemon grove.

3. Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Where: Bridge Theatre, 3010 Geary Blvd., 415-751-3213
When: All Week

Why: Watching the members of Anvil, a Toronto-based quartet of hair-metal pioneers still looking to recapture the magic of the early ’80s, isn’t as amusing as Spinal Tap, because the humiliations and indignities they endure are depressingly real. But Sacha Gervasi’s powerfully affecting new documentary about the band leaves room for cautious optimism: These guys can play, and they’re going to keep doing it until the world starts listening.

4. Little Ashes
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: All Week

Why: Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson returns, not as a super-sensitive vampire, but as legendary artist Salvador Dalí. Curious? How could you not be?

5. Enlighten Up!
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week

Why: If you think yoga can change the world – or, at the very least, one skeptic’s spiritual outlook on life – Kate Churchill’s new documentary should prove quite illuminating. Tracking journalist Nick Rosen’s induction into the world of a billion-dollar fitness craze that may or may not be a path to nirvana doesn’t get Churchill the results she was expecting, but his journey remains engrossing at every turn.

6. Ferlinghetti
Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: All Week
Why: The life of poet, rebel and cofounder of City Lights Books Lawrence Ferlinghetti gets its cinematic due in this documentary film directed and produced by Christopher Felver. Ferlinghetti’s journey from disenchanted G.I. to philosophical anarchist is revealed through the words of Allen Ginsberg, Dennis Hopper, Amiri Baraka and the Yonkers, New York, native himself.

7. Sugar
Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week
Why: Isolation and an early-life epiphany await Miguel "Sugar" Santos (Algenis Pérez Soto), a Dominican pitching prospect who comes to question the limited scope of his professional ambition during a minor-league stint in rural Iowa. Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (2006’s Half Nelson), Sugar is a moving, unflinchingly honest take on the immigrant experience, infused with an obvious passion for America’s pastime.