'The Blood of My Brother'

Raad al-Azawi: Killed in action
photo: Andrew Berends

For many Americans, at least many without friends or relatives fighting in Iraq, the war there has been experienced primarily in the context of domestic political struggles, a slant reflected by the ideologically charged character of most American documentaries on the war. The Blood of My Brother is hardly an exception, but the subtitle, A Story of Death in Iraq, concisely captures its core subject: the brute facts of grief, suffering, and death in wartime. The movie begins and ends at the grave of Raad al-Azawi, killed by American soldiers in April 2004. Director- cinematographer Andrew Berends devotes considerable time to the grieving of Raad's survivors, but the most salient material involves Sayid Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, which Raad's younger brother Ibrahim contemplates joining. Berends's extraordinary access to the group is most evident in an extended sequence of insurgents on the run from an American tank. A few American soldiers are interviewed in a halfhearted attempt at balance, but Berends, who thankfully eschews narration, makes his own p.o.v. clear enough by pointedly juxtaposing a soldier's cogent, if complacent, explanation of how the prerogative of self-defense can lead to civilian casualties with a wrenching scene of a teenage girl crying about her dead mother and hospitalized father, victims of an American attack.

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