As I've mentioned in other reviews, there were so many films included
in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival that it was virtually impossible to see
everything. There were several documentaries that dealt with the Iraq war
(including the excellent THE WAR TAPES) and THE BLOOD OF MY BROTHER,
which had its North American Premiere at Tribeca.
Director Andrew Berends opted not to be embedded with troops in Iraq.
Instead, he traveled around the country with a guide, something which was
possible in 2004 but which two years later probably would get him killed.
Berends was determined to show a different side of the conflict in Iraq by
focusing on a grieving family. Ra'ad al-Azawi, the proprietor of a photography
shop, was shot and killed by American troops while he was guarding a mosque
in Kadhimiya. Although the press notes and film's website indicate that Ra'ad's
death was accidental, there are questions that are never fully answered. The
Americans claimed that he was armed, but some of the other men who were
with him on guard that evening say he wasn't, although he may have been
carrying a long stick that could have been mistaken for a weapon. The others
readily admit that the other man shot by the Americans had been armed and
that he might not have put his weapon down when so ordered, predicating
the bloodshed. These matters are handled in a very cursory fashion and
perhaps could have or should have been probed.
What is palpable is the grief of the al-Azawi family. The deceased's
mother and two sisters keen at his grave site and are clearly devastated by
his death. His younger brother Ibrahim finds himself thrust into the role of
"man of the house." It is up to this young man (he's about 19) to support his
mother and siblings and he must also decide whether to continue to operate
his brother's business. He's also filled with an understandably impotent rage
that he verbalizes well. "When I see any Americans or Jews, I want revenge."
I personally had a little trouble accepting a film built around such a
person. It's a bit difficult for me to be sympathetic to his grief when he makes
statements like that, even if he doesn't act on them. Berends doesn't really
help his case by allowing the film to shift focus away from this family. Ibrahim
and his pals are intrigued by the preachings of a radical cleric with distinctively
anti-American views. The young man also flirts with the idea of joining an
insurgency group, the Mehdi Army.
Using that as a tenuous reason, Berends expands his film to include
footage of the Mehdi Army as it engages in skirmishes with American-led
forces. There's a very disturbing sequence in which the Mehdi engage several
Apache helicopters, resulting in one being shot down.
One has to have a very intricate knowledge of the conflicts and various
sects involved in the Iraq conflict (and I'm doubtful that your average person
can tell you the difference between a Shi'ite and a Sunni). A documentary like
THE BLOOD OF MY BROTHER appears to have been made with good
intentions, to try to humanize the plight of the Iraqi, but in some ways it
only serves to infuriate and alienate.
MPAA Rating: NONE
Running time: 90 mins.
Viewed at Cinema Village
|The Blood of My Brother
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.