The winner of the 2013 Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, not to mention countless other awards internationally and in America, ‘Blood Brother‘ is a film about a young man named Robin James Braat, Rocky for short, who willingly moved to India to help the kids at The Home, a HIV orphanage for women and children in Chennai, India. Produced by Danny Yourd and directed by Steve Hoover, Variety Magazine and countless critics have given this Kickstarter project raving reviews. Very much in the same league as ‘Invisible Children‘ (2006) and a great example of a modern Mother Teresa, this documentary is emotional, inspiring, and opens your mind to countless possibilities outside of society’s box.
Originally, Rocky left his family and friends to seek authenticity because he wanted more out of life. While in India, he wasn’t employed and lived off of the donations he received from friends. But when Rocky’s visa was rejected after three years, he was forced to return to America. Steve Hoover, his best friend and director of this documentary, described Rocky’s behavior as “disengaged from life in America.” Obviously unhappy in America, where his family issues, culture, and way of life was filled with materialistic desires and distractions, Rocky’s eagerness to return to America made Steve curious about his life there. Having come from a broken family filled with issues and pains, Rocky inspired his friends to go to India with him because he wanted to show them what life was like there. According to Rocky, many of the kids had seen people enter and leave their lives but he didn’t “want to just be a face in a book.”
At The Home, Steve is exposed to the kids who run to welcome the return of Rocky-Anna, a term of endearment. We, along with Steve, watch Rocky play with the kids in every way and are given complete access into their way of life, from having breakfast to hygiene. It is obvious that the kids need Rocky just as much as he needs their unconditional love and acceptance. Though their situation explodes and everyone involved with The Home are severely discriminated against, Rocky works hard to find level ground and stand strong.
A sweet component that completes the story arch of Rocky is when he, eventually, admits to Steve about being interested in an Indian woman. The emotions grow as Steve prods Rocky, who equates marrying the girl as marrying India. With a heavy heart and uncertainty, he asked, “Can I marry India?” Unfortunately, it is at that time that Surya, a little boy who is introduced in the beginning of the documentary, is admitted into the ICU.
This documentary is filled with tragically incredible stories. Rocky’s willingness to leave the comforts of America for the discomfort of India is deeply moving, especially when the victims who suffer the most are kids. Helping them with their issues and loving them, Rocky has changed the hearts of his friends, modestly admitting, “I guess we all need love.” And as Surya leaves the ICU for the recovery wing, Steve summed things up nicely with, “Rocky believes that God saved Surya’s life; the doctors and nurses say that Rocky saved Surya’s life.”
The wedding of Rocky is epic and a change of pace. With their friends and her family around them, it is sad that his family isn’t there, but Rocky makes the best of the situation. All throughout, Steve is accepting and supportive, thus, I believe, the title of the documentary reflects on the relationship between the two.
Well shot with what looked like a two-camera set up, there is a clear shot of a H4N Zoom and mini boom mic with a wind sock that collected vivid and great sound. As if to emphasize the boring life in America, the interviews there are flat and boring. However, every sequence in India is up beat and interesting, showing off a new world in happy and desperate times. The world is exotic and the people are culturally different, which makes the documentary all the more interesting. With appropriate music to fill in the silence and keep the pace thriving, the editing and score are very well done. Also, Rocky is an interesting subject who is never boring and filled with emotions that I connected with quite easily.
‘Blood Brother’ deals with hard issues and deeper thinkings. Knowing the solution and acting out the solution are two very different things. One way of seeing the situation is Rocky is running away from his personal issues into a world where he can create a new future for himself, but another way, the way Steve seems to be telling the story, is Rocky is bravely forsaking the comforts of his home to bless suffering children with comfort and love.
This is a well made documentary and very easy to comprehend. There are some parts that are hard to watch because of the situation that no one can control, but Steve told the story well and edited accordingly so as not to miss out on anything important. His eagerness was reflected onto the audience, who also wanted to see and learn more about the world on the other side of the globe. With so many stories and so little time, there are more videos available online at the ‘Blood Brother‘ website for your viewing pleasure. In my personal opinion, this documentary is a likely contender for a 2014 Best Feature Documentary Oscar. Please check them out and leave any thoughts or comments below!