Made with access to the Mehdi Army and embittered citizens the Western news media — or even the CIA — might envy, producer-helmer-lenser Andrew Berends creates a revealing insight into the war in Iraq from the locals’ POV in troubling docu “The Blood of My Brother.” Emotive but manifestly low-budget pic has created buzz at fests visited so far, and could win converts and spill moderate controversy Stateside in select theatrical venues before TV airings.
Title comes from core story about Ibrahim al-Azawi, a 19-year-old Shia teen filled with rage after U.S. soldiers shot and killed his older brother Ra’ad while he was guarding the Kadhimiya mosque in Baghdad. Ibrahim struggles to carry on Ra’ad’s photography biz, but becomes increasingly drawn to teachings of virulently anti-U.S. cleric Sayid Moqtada al-Sadr, and contemplates joining the insurgent Mehdi Army. The latter are shown on maneuvers in Najaf, 2004, fighting Coalition forces in the streets, an extraordinary feat of reportage. For balance, Berends also interviews U.S. soldiers who explain the dangers they face, and are seen raiding homes and street markets looking for guns and insurgents. Pace slackens somewhat in later stages.