‘Blood Brother’ Review: Inspiring Story of Indian AIDS Orphans or Secret Christian Propaganda?


Rocky Braat is the ideal documentary “good guy,” a young American in India caring for orphaned children with HIV and AIDS. Not as a part of any NGO or the Peace Corps or official cause, it seems. He just fell in love with the kids while passing through Chennai as a tourist. Of course there’s a film about him. He’s the kind of guy who wins audience awards for docs — and maybe some jury prizes, too — in spite of the fact that the honors are intended for filmmaking rather than the heroic and heartwarming subjects on screen. People bring their checkbooks to screenings specifically for this sort of thing. But the film he stars in, Blood Brother, does not have one of those common credits at the end of issue films indicating how we can help.

Maybe that’s because the documentary is not about Braat so much as it’s about Steve Hoover, the director of Blood Brother and longtime best friend of its central do-gooder. Hoover is not on screen much, but he narrates in the manner of a first-person filmmaker. Occasionally he even sounds like he’s modeling his voiceover on the present-tense style of Ross McElwee. He starts sentences with “I find myself wondering… ,” which is classic phrasing for this approach. Hoover has made a movie about his own experience attempting to understand why Braat ditched Pittsburgh to live among poor and ailing people on the other side of the world. With no experience or expertise to offer. And for little to no reward or recognition — until this film, that is.

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