An Important Film That Shows The Criminally Underexposed Face Of The Tragedy Of HIV/AIDS. A Moving, Heartbreaking & Personal Documentary That Is As Much A Celebration Of Life As It Is A Wake Up Call To The Western World.
Steve Hoover’s documentary on his best friend Robin ‘Rocky’ Braat who, disenchanted with his American life, takes a trip to India and whilst in Chennai chances upon an impoverished orphanage that’s home to children who are all HIV positive, is trying to be two things. One is an exploration of a western man’s decision to find more meaning out of his life and the other, way more powerful element, is an expose into the 3rd world and the reality of HIV in children. Dear reader, you should be aware that this author has always believed that under spoken battle of HIV has always been the one fought on the front lines in the 3rd world like Africa, South East Asia and India (as is the subject here) and it is children and the poor who suffer the worst for it. It’s a two handed suffering, one being the sheer lack of money to buy medication (patent laws = unmitigated death sentences) and the other a lack of community education. Taking this into account, I approached Blood Brother with hopeful eyes… And I wasn’t disappointed.
Blood Brother provides a valuable access point for middle class Westerners to experience this world, it’s joys and tragedies, from the perspective of one of their own. Hoover’s narration along with candid conversations with Braat make it easy for us to identify with them and allow us to develop emotional connections early on. Braat’s personal want of a bride, a family, a meaning in his life is a noble one and luckily, along with these noble qualities, Hoover doesn’t hide his frustrations, arrogance, anger or bull headedness either. It’s a portrait of a man with all his fallibilities. By keeping the camera rolling through the good times and the bad we too find ourselves just as spiritually and emotionally challenged as both the subject and the film maker are.
This film was meant to be a ‘love letter’ of sorts from one friend to another but what Hoover has captured, especially in the children and the surrounding Chennai living conditions, is an important insight into the tragedy of HIV/AIDS. Through the eyes of these children, especially Surya, you see the face of HIV/AIDS. In a world where they have nothing, we are treated to some of the happiest and excitable people on the planet. As we learn of their illnesses and various representations of HIV/AIDS within them, it becomes all too real how negligent the western world is. For me, dear readers, the real human tragedy is the children and Blood Brother brings this crashing home. From persecution at the hands of ill informed locals to sickness that sees a happy and healthy 12 year old dead in 5 days, the heartbreaking truth is captured right there on film.
.. And so is humanity. There is a big, beating heart pumping in Blood Brother. It’s one that Rocky champions and follows from the get-go. He’s a man who has shed his Westernised sensibilities and follows his heart. It’s an inspiring and beautiful thing to watch with more than few moments where this old Bogan, dear reader, was reduced to tears. There is an air of positivity that surrounds Blood Brother and an unwavering determination for the people within to never give up.
Blood Brother is a must see documentary, especially those that think HIV/AIDS is still in majority a gay disease. It shows the true face of this epidemic, the women, the children and the 3rd world in which it ravages. It also shows the vibrancy and resilience of the human spirit in a very personal context. This is a really fine film and one I can’t recommend highly enough.
BLOOD BROTHER is out now on HOME ENTERTAINMENT in AUSTRALIA
(The film was not released theatrically in Australia)