“I can’t take any of them out of that situation, but I can put myself into it,” says Rocky Braat, the protagonist of “Blood Brother,” a touching documentary that won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. documentary program at Sundance 2013.
The situation Braat refers to is an AIDS hostel in India where he finds a second family among a group of orphans infected with HIV. The Philadelphia-born man grew up in rough circumstances—with a drug addict mother and her abusive boyfriends—and while in his twenties set off to find himself in India.
Coming across the orphanage was a revelation. He fell in love with the indomitable spirit of the kids and soon a quick visit turned into a month long stay. His dedication to the kids is so complete he returned to the US long enough to renew his travel Visa and soon returned, with his best friend, director Steve Hoover, in tow.
The resulting film is a document of the years of hardships and the joys inherent with caring for terminally ill kids.
“Blood Brother” is unquestionably poignant. Braat’s devotion to the children, and to the Indian woman he wants to marry, is complete and indisputable. The document of his devotion provides a window into a huge story, personalizing it enough so as not to be completely overwhelming. But I couldn’t help but feel that the movie’s message may have been more effectively told by shifting focus from the American do-gooder to the kids themselves.
It’s not narcissistic exactly, because the message of the benefits of selfless dedication is so strong, but it may have benefitted from widening the scope of its story.