I'm not fond of the word "unflinching" in reviews of documentaries. It's trite and cliché, and is typically used to cover up a lack of professionalism. But in the case of the heartbreaking and maddening doc The Blood of My Brother, no other adjective is more apt.
The movie is an intimate look at the US occupation of Iraq—focusing on the plight of a Shia family whose unarmed son, Ra'ad, is killed (or "martyred") by Americans. Of course, the story is much larger than one family, and much of the film's running time is spent looking at the Shia insurrection as a whole, as well as the occupying army itself.
In fact, the most notable aspect of film is the startlingly unfettered access director Andrew Berends had while making the film. The camera is right there with the insurgents as they fire rockets at US helicopters and snipe at passing forces. (That also means there is a lot of wobbly running with the camera—coupled with blood and sheer terror, it's almost enough to make one sick.)
The intimacy at times feels like it's implicating the viewer, much like the controversial Belgian mockumentary Man Bites Dog—the difference is that The Blood of My Brother is very, very real, and therefore far more disturbing.
As if the violence and bloodshed and gunfire and Iraqi corpses weren't enough, the film also features extended scenes of mothers weeping for their dead sons, and a newly orphaned little girl who has been forced to grow up immediately.
It's a gut-wrenching film that succeeds at achieving its goals—being an unflinching look at the occupation of Iraq, its effects on Iraqi families, and the sick cycle of violence that is only creating more future "martyrs." Unfortunately, all this makes the film almost impossible to watch.