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Nice Bombs

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 10, 2007 4:15PM

We're sweltering in the heat here, the CTA sometimes seems to barely function and both of our baseball teams suck. All annoyances no doubt. But let's not forget that in the midst of all this a little thing called the Iraq War just keeps marching on: $442 billion and several thousand lives later. We can protest against it and agitate for change but most of the time it's much easier for us to put it out of our minds here in the U.S. At least occasionally. After all, we're only the occupiers.

2007_7nicebombs.jpg Imagine living abroad for a few decades and then returning to your childhood home--in Baghdad. That's just what filmmaker Usama Alshaibi did. Although he was born in Baghdad in 1969 he has lived most of his life in the U.S. Nice Bombs is about his journey back to Iraq, reuniting with his family after 24 years.

The documentary has been screened in Chicago before, most notably winning a top prize at the Chicago Underground Film Festival last year. Studs Terkel helped the project along in the early stages (he's credited as an executive producer) and Chicago's "two Bens" (Benzfilm) negotiated distribution by Seventh Art Releasing. It's back in town for a return engagement at the Siskel tomorrow and again Monday the 16th. Alshaibi will be present for Q & A afterwards.

This is not simply a hand-wringing polemic. Instead the film shows us a people teetering on the brink between freedoms that were long-suppressed and the chaos which is a daily threat to existence. Clearly Alshaibi has a dark sense of humor (check out the film's title) and an eye for the surreal. The violence may continue to escalate, but the swingset from his childhood still stands in the backyard of the family home.

It would be easy to shrug off Nice Bombs as “yet another” Iraq documentary. But perhaps a little empathy instead might …