The Milwaukee Film Festival came to a close Thursday, Oct. 10 after fifteen days of film screenings in three different theaters. The final film of the festival, Spotlight Presentation "Blood Brother" had its one and only screening at the Oriental Theater from 7:30-9 p.m. Director and narrator of the documentary Steve Hoover was in attendance, and answered questions during a Q&A after the screening.
"Blood Brother" is the award-winning documentary about Rocky Braat, a young man who takes a summer trip to India where he ends up finding his mission in life. Chance brought him to an orphanage for children diagnosed with HIV, and as he spent time there and grew to know the children, he couldn't tear himself away. This is especially remarkable as Braat admits towards the beginning of the film that he didn't even particularly like children upon arriving in India and originally planned on having the full sightseeing experience. He invited his best friend Hoover on a return trip to India to witness his work with the children and their incredible spirit. The result was this inspirational documentary which explores Braat's journey to establish a home in India, the incredible love exchanged between him and the children, and the devastating hardships HIV can bring to both children affected and their loved ones.
I guess we all need love.
The film begins with some background on Braat and his home life in America. The use of animation and photography give the audience an idea of the kind of caring person Braat is and why he might make his commitment to India in the first place. Upon returning to his cherished children in the Indian orphanage, there are many beautifully-shot scenes of their joyful reunion and playful scenes of the group interacting together. The clarity, sharpness, and colorful footage combined with the joy shown in these scenes all contribute to understanding Braat's happiness in India with these children.
However, the reality of the children's situation having HIV soon comes to the forefront as Braat explains some of the prejudices and fears one experiences around these children who want nothing more than to be loved and to show their love in return. The viewers comes to know a few of the children and see them go through some gut-wrenching challenges associated with HIV. Some of the footage is extremely difficult to watch, as young children suffer through near-death experiences, without any kind of guarantee that they will make it back out of the hospital. Both physical and psychological traumas come to the forefront with heartbreaking honesty as Rocky Braat, Steve Hoover, and the children and parents in India deal with incredible hardship and grief. This unique opportunity to see what HIV can do to anyone, while gruesome at times and hard to stomach, is an incredibly important experience to have.
If they are to die then they should have someone..I have to face the facts that that's what I signed up for.
The point of "Blood Brother" may initially seem to follow Braat as he seeks to find his place and purpose in the world, but it's equally if not more about the children. "Blood Brother" is a masterpiece in raising awareness and ending prejudices against children with HIV. Over the course of the film, the audience takes a journey exposing them to a glimpse at the reality of these children's lives. There is so much that can be done to help kids like these and, while many people aren't even aware of these children, Braat dedicates his life to them.
Rocky Braat, or "Rocky Anna" ("Big Brother Rocky"), proves himself to be an incredibly giving and selfless person; the kind of dream subject for a documentary that one rarely finds (if ever). He admits his faults and insecurities, in no way claiming to be a saint or perfect person, but by so doing, he shows his honesty and humility even though he does such incredible things for so many children in India suffering from HIV.
During the Q&A with Steve Hoover, he added that anyone can host a screening of the film, with all proceeds going to the children in the film and the HIV/AIDS initiatives. Information about his upcoming documentary, "Gennadiy", can be found here.
It's extremely exciting seeing what the film can do.