A wrenching corrective to the impersonal casualty stats that blip by on nightly newscasts, The Blood of My Brother plunges deep into the current of pain caused by a single violent death in Iraq. The result is a fascinating if fragmented study in the mechanics of grief.
Director Andrew Berends gives dimension to the loss via interviews with family and friends of the slain Ra’ad al-Azawi, an Iraqi photographer shot by American troops in mid-2004 while serving as a volunteer guard at a historic mosque in northern Baghdad. Their emotions run the gamut from measured anguish to vows of revenge, but the primary response is stricken disorientation. This is most fully exhibited by Ibrahim, al-Azawi’s younger brother and reluctant successor, whose boyish pride in taking over the family business (which he runs into the ground) vies with unhinged, near-poetic sorrow. These recollections are juxtaposed with those of young, impossibly jaded American soldiers, whose deaths would undoubtedly result in similar ripples of despair.
Despite occasionally casting his net too wide (early scenes in a Muslim school traffic in pat humanization), Berends has made a brave film that leaves little doubt that the murder of good people, however mistaken and no matter the justification, is an engine only for irresolvable heartache and inadvertent martyr making. (Opens Fri; Cinema Village.)—Mark Holcomb