Crash Course on Cuba

Don't expect an extensive lineup of movies at the Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstore & Cultural Center's Afro-Cuban Film Festival. The films aren't the event's primary focus. "The idea is to get another glimpse of Cuba, from inside," says the Reverend Mwalimu Fana of the Shrine. Festivalgoers will learn about life in the struggling country from several documentaries, including Eyes of the Rainbow, a 1997 film about Black Panther Assata Shakur, who escaped from prison and was given political asylum in Cuba. The lineup also includes two 15-minute shorts; one is Who's Afraid of a Little Yellow School Bus?, about a bus full of supplies that was impounded in Mexico before making it to Cuba.

The festival will benefit the International Foundation for Community Organization/ Pastors for Peace, of which Fana is a card-carrying member. The group will be collecting donations -- financial, medical, edible and wearable -- to be sent to Cuba.

If the event is a success, the Shrine might make it a yearly thing. "We're trying to build bridges of friendship," says Fana. "The idea is for us, as a community, to embrace those who are part of the African diaspora, and Cuba is our neighbor, right there, 90 miles from Miami. So it's an opportunity for us, as an African-American and the African community here in Houston, to extend ourselves to help."

The Afro-Cuban Film Festival happens at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 7. Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstore & Cultural Center, 5309 Martin Luther King Boulevard, 713-229-8353. Attend the event again 7 p.m. Saturday, June 21, at Talento Bilingue de Houston, 333 South Jensen, 713-222-1213. For information about both events, call 713-645-1071. Admission is free, but donations are requested. -- Craig D. Lindsey


Hit 'Em All
If you have theatrical aspirations but hate trotting around to auditions, head to Stages Repertory Theatre this weekend. You can hit 23 local theater companies -- including Stages, Theater LaB, Infernal Bridegroom Productions, Main Street Theater, Theatre New West, Vagabondage, the Country Playhouse and Masquerade Theatre -- in one afternoon at this year's joint auditions. Of course, there's some risk in taking the stage in front of so many companies. After all, if you blank out, fall down or otherwise make an ass of yourself, there will be more than one witness. Auditions by appointment only, Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and 8. To register, call 713-527-0220, extension 317, or visit www. -- Cathy Matusow


Stars of Heaven and Hollywood
If you can't afford to buy a seat on the next Russian spacecraft, you can still take a tour of the universe on the Infinity Express. At the new planetarium show at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, audiences will soar into colliding galaxies, plunge through canyons and hurtle past planets. The 20-minute show, which boasts technological credits that would impress any computer geek, mixes real images from the Hubble Space Telescope with animated segments. Laurence Fishburne of The Matrix, presumably on break from helping Neo save humanity, narrates. Note to stoners: Infinity Express could be even trippier than the old Pink Floyd laser light show. Showings are typically at noon and 2 p.m., but call or visit the museum's Web site before making plans. Through December 31. One Hermann Circle Drive. For information, call 713-639-4629 or visit $5; $3.50 for children and seniors. -- Bob Ruggiero


True Paintings
Turns out books don't have a monopoly on the term "non-fiction." For his "Non-Fiction Paintings" exhibition at the Blaffer Gallery, artist Bob Knox used found photographs as the blueprint for his works. "It feels quite liberating not to have to make up anything in my painting," he has said. "Painting from photographs lets me plug into a bigger energy than my own." The artist takes much of his inspiration from design magazines of the '50s and '60s; some of his favorite motifs are retro kitchens and urban and suburban landscapes. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through August 31. Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, entrance no. 16 (off Cullen Boulevard). For information, call 713-743-9530 or visit Free. -- Cathy Matusow


Fit to Print
Anyone with sophisticated taste knows that quality artwork is difficult to find, especially on a budget. This weekend, collectors and decorators will be searching for bargains among the hundreds of prints at the Houston Center for Photography's Summer Print Sale. The one-day event showcases the work of emerging and mid-career photographers from the regional scene. Fifty of the photographers will be in attendance, giving buyers a chance to meet the artists. Local arts organizations such as the Glassell School of the Arts, the Houston Photography Society, the Houston-Chinese Photography Society and the Woodlands Photo Club will also be participating. Who knows? Maybe you'll stumble onto a print by a future star. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 7. Houston Center for Photography, 1441 West Alabama. For information, call 713-529-4755 or visit -- Melissa Nurczynski

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