Nice Bombs



Seventh Art Releasing

NEW YORK -- Filmmaker Usama Alshaibi's documentary about returning to his homeland of Iraq after 24 years lists Studs Terkel among its executive producers. It's easy to see what attracted the legendary journalist to the project, as it features extended interviews not with journalists, politicos or military figures, but rather the sort of common folk most viscerally affected by the conflict. Unfortunately, for all its qualities, "Nice Bombs" lacks the focus necessary to elevate it to the first rank of this increasingly crowded documentary genre. The film recently was given its theatrical premiere at New York's Two Boots Pioneer Theater.

Shot in 2004 but given a more recent coda, the film also suffers from a lack of timeliness. It concerns the trip to Baghdad undertaken by the Iraq-born filmmaker, his American wife and his father, at the onset of the U.S. occupation. There, Usama, who moved with his parents to the U.S. during the Iran-Iraq war, is reunited with his extended family, including Tareef, the cousin with whom he spent much of his childhood. It is the unflappable Tareef who gives the film its title, explaining that a deafening explosion nearby is simply the result of a "nice bomb."

Consisting of much footage of the filmmaker engaging in lengthy dialogues with his family members and wandering around an already besieged Baghdad, the video-shot effort has a ragged, home-movie feel that detracts from its effectiveness. Not surprisingly, considering its setting and subject matter, it has several powerful moments. But one ultimately longs for a stronger directorial and editorial vision to provide a tighter shape and coherence to the often-rambling footage.
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