Naomi zang, Kristie Alshaibi, Christie Hefner, Usama Alshaibi, Maha Cantello (all pictures courtesy of Usama Alashaibi)

Usam and Studs introduce the movie.


JL Aronson answering audience questions.


Last night was the best opening night CUFF has ever had. We actually sold out the entire 750 seat theater at the Music Box. Thanks to everyone who came out. We hope you’ll come around for more films throught out the week.

Front Page

Here are a couple snippets of the press coverage for this years festival.

From the Chicagoist:

Films From A Land Down Under

Now in its 13th year, the Chicago Underground Film Fest is almost becoming an institution. Yet after more than a decade of presenting challenging, weird and hilarious films, CUFF still manages to seem fresh.

Music videos are no longer the delivery system for underground music. But many filmmakers still use film as a way to explore how one art form enhances the other. Several film series at the fest including Jeff Krulik’s “The Maryland Trilogy”, “Dance Party USA”, “Glam-O-Rama” and the “Moments of Greatness” video collection, all use music as a starting point for visual imagery.

Read the rest here.

From IndieWire:

Chicago Underground Set to Offer 8 World Premieres at 2006 Fest

by Eugene Hernandez (August 14, 2006)

The 2006 Chicago Underground Film Festival will open on Thursday night in the Windy City with the world premiere of Usama Alshaibi’s “Nice Bombs,” a personal story that features the filmmaker returning to Iraq to reunite with family. Executive produced by acclaimed author Studs Terkel, who inspired the idea along with diarist Salaam Pax, the film offers a recent portrait of Baghdad. It was produced by Benzfilm Group’s Ben Berkowitz and Ben Redgrave and the film received a Creative Capital grant, as well as the Tribeca All Access Creative Promise Award.

The rest here.

From Screen Magazine:

CUFF Me Again: The Chicago Underground Film Festival Celebrates 13 Years

By Nick Lloyd
Mindful of war, politics, and “The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” more and more Chicagoans are heading underground. As the director of the Chicago Underground Film Festival (CUFF), Brian Wendorf couldn’t be happier.

This year’s weeklong lineup opens August 17 and features more than 130 films, plus talk-back sessions, parties with filmmakers, live bands at Schuba’s and The Empty Bottle and late-night dancing at Smart Bar. Best of all, it starts with a bang.

Read the rest here.


Hello friends,

The 13th Chicago Underground Film Festival is just around the corner (August 17-24th at the Music Box Theatre). We’re currently updating our website and the complete festival schedule will be available there very soon. But we wanted to let you all know about the great WORLD PREMIERE screening we have slated for opening night.

The 2006 Chicago Underground Film Festival Kicks Off with the World Premiere of the documentary feature‘ NICE BOMBS’ by Chicago based filmmaker Usama Alshaibi’. The film is Usama’s personal story documenting his return to Baghdad to reunite with his family after nearly 24 years. In January 2004, shortly after becoming an American citizen, Usama journeyed with his wife Kristie from Chicago to Baghdad where he was reunited with family members, friends and former neighbors in an Iraq much different than the country of his childhood. Inspired by writer Studs Terkel and Internet diarist Salaam Pax, he explores with humor and resilience the culture, customs and complex politics of Iraqis in a post-Saddam era. All the while, the United States occupation remains a constant presence in the background. Capturing the conflicting reactions to the conditions of life in Baghdad. Through a wide range of opinions and experiences he provides a broad panorama of voices long neglected under Saddam’s regime.

“The sound of a ground-shaking explosion awoke my wife and I from a deep sleep. It was about 7:00 in the morning. My cousin Tareef entered the bedroom to find a tie for work. “What was that?” I asked. “It was a bomb. A nice bomb.” The phrase was indicative of my family’s nonchalance about their situation. I had been away for twenty-four years. They were used to it. As one young boy put it, “We’re Iraqis. It’s normal.”

My Arabic is weak so I spoke to my relatives in English, both on and off camera. I was surprised that, despite the language barrier, their meaning clearly broke through. I thought that most Iraqis would be reluctant to speak openly. It had been rumored that Saddam executed people for simply making jokes about him and they were accustomed to holding their tongues. The opposite was true. Everyone wanted to speak, and they wanted Americans to hear them.

I left in 1980 in the midst of a war between Iraq and Iran. I was eleven years old and terrified of dying. The current war gave me an opportunity to return and revisit my birthplace and my family, and to explore a culture in which I feel both rooted and uprooted. I was frightened, but I felt that I had to go and see what TV and newspapers could not convey. I brought my camera along to document the experience.” – Usama Alshaibi

Following Nice Bombs please join us for our opening night party at Schubas (3159 N Southport) with musical guests Bobby Conn and the Glass Gypsies, Roommate and DJ Hunter Hussar

To purchase tickets for the film and after party go here:

Or if you just want tickets for the film:

The complete festival schedule will be posted soon at

Thanks we hope to see you at the festival!

Special Screening/Reception of 2006 Tribeca Film Festival Best Documentary winner

Thursday, June 29th, 7:00 pm Film Row Cinema, Columbia Colllege, 1104 S Wabash, 8th Floor

Admission FREE I RSVP:

Straight from the front lines in Iraq, THE WAR TAPES is the first war movie filmed by soldiers themselves. This is Operation Iraqi Freedom as filmed by Sergeant Steve Pink, Sergeant Zack Bazzi and Specialist Mike Moriarty. Steve is a wisecracking carpenter who aspires to be a writer. Zack is a Lebanese-American university student who loves to travel and is fluent in Arabic. Mike is a father who seeks honor and redemption. Each leaves a woman behind – a girlfriend, a mother and a wife. Through their candid footage, these men open their hearts and take us on an unforgettable journey, capturing camaraderie and humor along with the brutal and terrifying experiences they face.

“Riveting! Compelling!… Gives a stronger taste of the Iraq war experience than any film I can remember.” – Stephen Holden, THE NEW YORK TIMES

“The first indispensable Iraq documentary.” – Owen Gleiberman, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

“Remarkable. Very moving. Very real.” – Mark Bowden, Author of Black Hawk Down

“A film of rare honesty and power that exposes, from the eyes of those who fight the war, the revolting and soul-numbing world of combat.” – Chris Hedges, author of the bestselling and National Book Critics Circle Award winning War is the Force that Gives us Meaning

“the single best document (book, film or article) you could see” on the war in Iraq – John Fisher Burns, the New York Times’ Baghdad bureau chief and two-time Pulitzer Prize winning foreign correspondent

Samuel Becketts Film and Literary Cinema May 1213, 2006 Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 2

Museum of Modern Art

On the centenary of Samuel Becketts birth, publishing pioneer Barney Rosset presents a selection of films with unique literary pedigrees. In the early 1960s, Rossets legendary Grove Press commissioned film scripts from leading figures in world literature, including Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Harold Pinter, and Marguerite Duras, to be produced by their Evergreen Theater production company. Only Becketts Film was shot and completed. It remains his single cinematic work, as well as Buster Keatons final role. The film also helped Grove Press enter the distribution business, and within a decade the publishing house had become one of the most respected independent film distributors in America.

Organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film and Media, and Ed Halter, independent curator and writer. Thanks to Astrid Myers.

Good article on the PDX Film Festival in Portland. If you live in Portland you should go:

Above all, underground cinema Matt McCormick directs Portland’s experimental film explosion, culminating in this week’s PDX fest Sunday, April 23, 2006 KRISTI TURNQUIST

The Oregonian

Like our fondness for books, coffee and microbrews, loving movies is apparently in Portlanders’ DNA. Either we’re born with it or come down with a raging case of cinemania the instant we move into an Oregon ZIP code.

Film festivals seem to pop up every other week. And Portlanders are nothing if not eclectic: Why else would we stand in line to see popcorn blockbusters at Regal multiplexes, explorations of existential angst at Cinema 21 or slices of Uruguayan life at the Portland International Film Festival? As the saying goes, if you project it, we will come.

As varied as these objects of our big-screen desire are, there’s still another category of film out there, one that gets less attention, maybe, but with an equally devoted group of fans. One in which 400 audience members look through customized View-Masters to watch the tale of a frustrated cockroach yearning to break out from under the fridge. Or a filmmaker shoots the crowd as they come into the theater, develops his film during the first half of the show and screens it during the second half. Or viewers gaze at colorful abstract images, not sure whether they’re seeing landscapes, an extreme close-up of the human elbow or somebody’s bedroom wall.


BIT FREAKS @ The Eye and Ear Clinic!

I LOVE PRESETS, OFF/ON and Latent Light Excavations FRIDAY MAY 4 @ 4:30 PM The Eye and Ear Clinic Film, Video & New Media Dept The School of the Art Institute of Chicago Room 1307 in the MacLean Building 112 S. Michigan Ave CHI IL .US


The Eye & Ear Clinic presents a live realtime audio video performance by I LOVE PRESETS (Rob Ray, jon.satrom and Jason Soliday) with screenings of Scott Bartlett’s ground-breaking 1968 video-film OFF/ON and Lynn Marie Kirby’s recent digital film project Latent Light Excavations!

Tonight’s show is an instance of [FRAY], a distributed series of screenings, discussions, student initiated projects and a conference. [FRAY] traces intersecting hyperthreads of time, screen and code-based experimental New Media art hosted by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Film, Video, and New Media.

The Eye & Ear Clinic:



AV is not TV will be four interwoven realtime audio visual performances by Taeyoon Kim and djANDY, Morgan Higby-Flowers and Brendan Pete and Black September with Brendan Pete. Crossing signals, each performance commingles with collaborative approaches to hacking and processing digital material. AV is not TV also featuring the video installation work ELECTRIC SPECTRUM TOTEM INSTALLATION by Michael Miles.


Chicago Filmmakers Presents

Saturday, May 6 – 8:00 pm
at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.)

David Brook’s Rarely Shown Masterpiece

The Wind Is Driving Him Toward the Open Sea

Filmmaker David Brooks died in 1969 at the young age of 24, cutting short a promising artistic career. He left behind several shorts, an unfinished project, and The Wind Is Driving Him Toward the Open Sea (1968, 52 mins.), an experimental narrative that has been much admired but infrequently seen. Jonas Mekas writes that The Wind has “a fascinating melancholy that surrounds it. It’s narrative of moods, of reflection, of things lost, gone, like autumn leaves – no tragedy, really, only a mood of melancholy, of sadness – of friends, of ways of life, of cultures gone, of ages coming and going – these are just some of the notes that the film strikes. Romanticism? Perhaps.” Showing with Brook’s short Eel Creek (1968).

Admission: $8.00 general; $7.00 students; $4.00 Chicago

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