This searing documentary examines Iraqi resentment towards the heavy-handed tactics of U.S. troops, and the insurgency spawned by that very resentment. Blood of My Brother recounts the story of a fatherless Shi'ite family whose eldest son Ra'ad is killed by U.S. troops while he is standing guard at a mosque in the Kadhimiya district of Baghdad in April 2004. Ra'ad's younger brother Ibrahim, not yet out of his teens, is immediately thrust into the role of head of household, but first he must come to terms with the death of his older brother. Ibrahim's desire for revenge is tempered by the quotidian reality of providing for his family. It is this subtle dynamic between grief and rage that director Andrew Berends so eloquently explores, while extending it out to encompass the burgeoning culture of militancy found among young Iraqi men. After focusing on Ra'ad's struggle and grief, the film makes a fascinating digression into the world of the Mehdi Army, a Shia insurgency inspired by the demagogic figure of cleric Sayid Moqtada al-Sadr. Berends' camera brings us as close to these militants as we are ever likely to get. We see them weep, sing, and dance-assault rifles raised high-in the mean streets of Sadr City and Najaf. Berends has made an important film that gets closer to the troubles in Iraq than the embedded media ever could.
Andrew Berends is a documentary filmmaker and photographer. He spent six months working in Iraq to create two independent documentary films, The Blood of My Brother and When Adnan Comes Home. His most recent documentary film, Urk, was the International Documentary Association's Pare Lorentz Award nominee and also screened in competition at the Cinéma Du Réel International Documentary Film Festival in Paris. Berends' recent photography includes projects in Haiti dealing with sexual violence against girls. His work in Brazil ranges from the slums of Salvador and Rio de Janeiro to the timeless fishing techniques still practiced in remote villages in Bahia. In New York, he has documented the conditions of underprivileged Brooklyn youth in housing projects and on public assistance.