Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 26, 2006

The Blood of My Brother

Filed under: Film,Islam — louisproyect @ 4:45 pm

Besides "The War Tapes", this year's Tribeca Film Festival premiered another compelling documentary about Iraq. While "The War Tapes," a film made by the GI's themselves, was striking for its inability with rare exceptions to empathize with the Iraqi people, "The Blood of My Brother" is remarkable for its intimate views of a Shi'ite family torn apart by the death of their bread-winner.

The film begins with a funeral for Ra'ad, who was killed by American troops in August 2004 while guarding a mosque in Kadhimiya, a predominantly Shi'te neighborhood in Baghdad. Ra'ad was not even carrying a rifle, but was accidentally shot in a typical episode of 'collateral damage' that has cost the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis.

"Blood of My Brother" focuses on the difficult economic, political and existential questions forced on Ra'ad's younger brother Ibrahim. He is torn between joining the Mehdi army of Moqtada al-Sadr and taking over his brother's photography business and providing for the family. Deeply religious, everything is posed in terms of "Inshallah," or "if god wills it."

But this is not just a film about an individual family's travails. It is also about the Shi'ite insurgency that took place in the Summer of 2004 in Baghdad's Sadr City and the holy city of Najaf. Director Andrew Berends, who describes himself in the press notes as "unembedded", was able to take up-close footage of Shi'ite militiamen confronting American helicopters and tanks, and fighting them to a standoff. These were the events that Berends captured:

Iraqi fighters loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr shot down a US helicopter yesterday in fierce clashes in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf that killed four people and threatened to unravel a deal to end an uprising led by the radical cleric.

In other violence, guerillas detonated a car bomb and sprayed gunfire at a police station in the mixed Sunni and Shi'ite town of Mahawil, south of Baghdad, killing at least six people and wounding 24, Iraqi government officials said.

The fighting in Najaf was the most intense since Sadr's rebellion in April and May. The city is home to the holiest shrines in Shi'ite Islam, and most Iraqi Shi'ites react with outrage when clashes erupt near the sacred sites.

Sadr's supporters in Basra also took to the streets and threatened attacks unless comrades they said had been detained by British forces were released. Armed followers of Sadr also took to the streets of Shi'ite areas of Baghdad.

A US military spokesman said the crew of the downed helicopter were wounded and had been evacuated. Sadr's aides said the cleric's Mehdi Army militia had shot down the aircraft.

(The Australian, August 6, 2004)

In between displaying the struggle taking place in the streets, "The Blood of My Brother" reveals the daily patterns of life of Shi'ites. They slaughter a lamb both for food and to offer up a blood sacrifice for the martyred Ra'ad. Like young men everywhere, Ibrahim whiles away the time playing violent video games on a Sony Xbox. It is a grim unintended irony to see them yelping in delight when one of the animated game figures gets his head slashed off in combat.

In the press notes, Berends states:

It is worthwhile to note that the window of opportunity to do verité documentaries covering the Iraqi side of the conflict is all but closed. It was difficult and dangerous before. Now, the consensus among most journalists and filmmakers is that the threat of abduction and death has become too high and the access to Iraqi stories too restricted to be able to work unembedded. It is unlikely that more films like The Blood of My Brother will emerge from Iraq for years to come.

If for no other reason, this would compel the serious film enthusiast to see "The Blood of My Brother," which opens at Cinema Village in New York on June 30. Highly recommended.

"The Blood of My Brother" website 

1 Comment »

  1. A documentary like that is less feasible, as the sectarianism increases.

    The Coalition’s casualties are down, when sectarian violence increases. Some neocons are openly for civil war.

    You’ve been tagged.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — May 28, 2006 @ 12:34 am

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