Cinema Signals by Jules Brenner:
The Fall of Baghdad
by Jon Lee Anderson

Writing, Directing, and Producing Documentary Films and Videos

. "The Blood Of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq"

This is another "you are there" experience, only instead of camera witnessing our troops in Iraq we closely follow a family's grief over the death of their eldest son, killed by an American patrol while on his way to volunteer as a guard at a Baghdad mosque. The accidental or mistaken identity nature of it is well besides the point in the mourning that follows.

From a perspective rarely focused on, it's the story of Ra'ad, an Iraqi portrait photographer who has just opened his own shop. A peaceful, thoughtful man, the ironies of his death are profound and, one might infer, not so altogether rare. Killing in a justifiable way isn't part of guerilla warfare.

While the family follows the rituals of loss, the funeral, the burial, the rage, Ra'ad's surviving brother would like nothing more than to join the Shia uprising and take revenge against the American troops. But the need to step in as the family breadwinner trumps that desire as he takes over his brother's business and provides for his mother and two sisters.

Filmmaker Andrew Berends' unsparing document focuses on the realities of a family tragedy that anyone who thinks about it assumes to be part of the chaos in Iraq after a less than well thought out invasion. In recording the intimate detail of an actual one, he imparts a strong sense of the culture and the sort of dilemma that faces every member of this torn society.

In the streets and houses of a neighborhood, Berends takes us into the fear and protectiveness that the appearance of an American tank stirs up, boosted by the roar of low-flying Apache helicopters. Screaming toddlers, fresh blood in the street, riflemen peering through scopes, our guys attacking masked resistance fighters... we sense the stakes and suddenness of such operations on both sides.

The intimate detail and close witnessing of emotional devestation of individuals may produce different effects on various viewers but one can't ignore the impact of the reality when it's brought to us in such vivid and disturbing proximity.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Troop on the ground
Fallouja, Iraq, circa 2004
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