THE BLOOD OF MY BROTHER documentary follows Ibrahim, a young Shiite man in his early twenties during a period of some weeks in spring/summer 2004. Ibrahim`s older brother Ra'ad was killed by American soldiers while on duty guarding the Kadhimiya mosque in Bagdad. The viewer is witness to Ibrahim`s and his family`s efforts to come to term with the loss of their loved one. Extended scenes show visits to Ra'ad`s grave or Ibrahim, his mother and sister recollecting. Ibrahim dreams of revenge and joining the resistance movement, but feels compelled to support his family by running his late brother's photography shop.
Interspersed is - often quite gruesome - footage of the insurgency and the turmoil in Iraq, ranging from streetfighting in the Sadr City slum in Bagdad (where a crowd of Shiites cheer at the wreck of a downed American Apache helicopter) to grim scenes of wounded civilians. The viewer accompanies American soldiers searching the homes of suspects and interrogating them or stands right behind an insurgent sniper. These particular scenes are really outstanding and scary, as you are right in the middle of it. A particular frightening episode has Iraqi policemen opening fire on apparently unarmed Shiite demonstrators in Najaf.
This is quite powerful and harrowing footage.
It should be pointed out however that the documentary has its lighter sides as well. Even in the carnage of today`s Iraq there is sometimes some semblence of normalcy, like when we witness Ibrahim with friends at a carp barbecue on the Tigris riverbank, or Ibrahim in attendance at a horse race in a deleted scene in the DVD's extra features section.
My problem with THE BLOOD OF MY BROTHER is the lack of context. There should be explanatory narration or title cards regarding several incidents or persons involved (like the Shiite cleric Moqtada es-Sadr). So unless you are knowledgeable about the Iraqi situation, you will likely feel a bit lost.
An asset of the documentary is the great ethnic score, which deserves special mention. The music fits perfectly to the images!
The subtitles are easy on the eyes. There are also nothing to complain about regarding extra features. There is the film's trailer, which sells the documentary well and about a dozen deleted scenes, running about 30 minutes in total (some interviews with American soldiers about their experiences, a lengthy sequence detailing the raid on an Iraqi suspect's home, several scenes about Ibrahim, a trip to a filthy open-air slaughterhouse and a scene detailing the sale of black market gasolene).