Blood Of My Brother (The)
R4 - Australia - DV1
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and Stevie McCleary (23rd April 2007).
The Film

I've never really been a huge fan of most documentaries. There's usually too much of the 'auteur' preaching to me about their strong feelings on whatever subject prompted them to make this insightful look into other people's business. It's hardly ever objective, it's usually full of misinformation, and sometimes they're just full of crap that just happened to happen while they were filming and thought it would either fill out the film's length, or was something so cool we 'surely had to keep it in'.
"The Blood of My Brother" is a documentary centred in Iraq. I assume it was Iraq as this film isn't exactly the best at explaining simple facts like 'where are we?' and things of that nature. But we'll get to that in a second. This project focuses on the family of an Iraqi guard, Ra'ad, and the effect his being killed by American troops has on his families' lives. His brother Ibrahim wants revenge. His mother wants him back. And the random guy that Ra'ad decided to open a photography store with, and who has moved in and replaced Ra'ad as the brother of the family, just wants to...do things...well. As we follow the family, they essentially just keep repeating that 'Allah is the one true God' and that Ra'ad 'died as a martyr'. Then, in the middle, the film loses focus and starts covering small militia groups and other seemingly random events until it eventually gets back on track and returns to its emotional core of the family drama. All along the way you get very occasional subtitles giving you background information on what is going on. These are few and far between and appear to assume that we all know everything about life in Iraq. I'd say that I'd rather have things over-explained in a documentary rather than guess through most of it and then leave having no real idea of what was going on because that's pretty much what happened here. I know very little about foreign politics and the global situation right now (partially because I'd rather not know) and this didn't really enlighten me at all. What is the point of making a documentary if it doesn't provoke thought? You might as well just make a scripted movie. At least there'd be a plot. They don't even try and find out who killed Ra'ad. Considering the filmmakers ride with American troops as well, you'd think it would be easy enough to get the inside scoop. Instead, nobody follows up what would have been the most interesting concept in the film. They ask some American troops about the way they look at preserving their own lives in this situation but it seems to be mainly there to make the Americans look bad. One scene appears to only serve the purpose of reminding us that Americans are bad people, and has one of the soldiers looking at the camera, visibly nervous over the way he knows it looks.
It's best to not be eating anything if you choose to watch, as I found out the hard way, There is a simplistic sheep slaughter scene (seemingly a sacrifice that needs to be made when someone dies unjustly) that is very difficult to watch. In case you're curious about it, to know what you may have to handle; they use a knife to saw through its throat. It's brutally matter-of-fact. And, as a matter of fact, my Coco Pops made a surprise re-appearance about this point.
The bits that work best in the film are when they deal with the family's uncertainty about how life will go on and whether the Americans are there to help them or not. Although there is a scene in which the militia shoot sown a U.S. helicopter, but it's poorly filmed (not really the filmmaker's fault however) and it takes away from the impact. At the end of the day it's the scenes where the family laid all their feelings out that makes the film hit those emotional highs it sorely needed to. But even an hour of listening to them discuss their emotions is immediately overtaken by the one scene that features a little girl who has a missile hit her house, causing her to lose her mother and getting her father injured. Her interview is the most touching of them all.
"The Blood of My Brother" is probably a decent documentary which gets better footage of war zone activities than any TV station ever has. Just don't expect to have a clear idea of what is going on and why. But if you're after a behind the scenes look at life in Iraq today, then this is a good choice. Provided you don't have a weak stomach, that is.

Video

The original ratio for this film is 1.66:1, this is the ratio in which the US region 1 DVD is released in, this Australian edition however is in 1.33:1 and not only is it in the incorrect ratio the image has been slightly stretched to fit the full screen format. As a film fan I cannot tolerate any distributor altering the director's intended ratio. I cannot see what benefit DV1 have in doing this? The stretched image was totally distracting and even those people that have a problem with the black bars at the top and bottom will know that something is wrong, so there's no pleasing both camps.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included an Arabic/English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track as well as an Arabic/English PCM 2.0 stereo track. I chose to view the film with its Dolby Digital track. For the most part this documentary is fairly roughly presented with DV footage and many times the audio is recorded into the camera so what we are getting is the best possible in-camera audio that the equipment used by the filmmakers provided. Sometimes the dialogue is clear while other times it's hard to make out, but luckily for us the film includes subtitles. As far as stereo tracks go it's not the best but I have seen far worse from other documentaries.
This film includes forced English subtitles for the Arabic spoken language in the film.

Extras

First up are some deleted scenes presented in a reel that runs for 27 minutes 41 seconds, this is extra footage of the Lady Fatima celebration, buying black market gas, we see Ibrahim at the racetrack, the family talks about Ra'ad wanting to get married and have kids, a look at engraving stones at the jewelry shop, more footage of the sheep slaughter yard, Ibrahim with friends taking pictures, plus more footage of the US soldiers and a night patrol.

Rounding out the extras is the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 1 minute 58 seconds.

The US release included an audio commentary from the film's director and it's a shame that it was not included here, it would have been interesting given the chance to hear what the director's intentions were and to talk about this film.

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: F Audio: C+ Extras: C+ Overall: C-

 


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