Friday, November 1, 2013
In the documentary “Blood Brother,” American Steve Hoover trains the camera on his best friend, Rocky Braat, who visited an AIDS hostel while on vacation in India and found his purpose, staying and making his life with the women and children of the village.
Hoover offers only a few minutes of backstory on Braat’s unhappy childhood in Pittsburgh before decamping to Chennai, where in set-to-music montages of scenes both spontaneous and posed we see the mutual love between the kids and the man they call “Rocky Anna” (big brother Rocky).
For much of its runtime, “Blood Brother” plays almost like a parody of misplaced perspective, with the sick kids little more than decoration for Hoover’s bromantic hagiography of the white man from the West. It’s indulgent and unstructured; we learn almost nothing, for example, about the young Indian woman to whom Rocky proposes marriage. It’s really a 1-1/2 star picture most of the way.
But in the second half, one of Rocky’s kids, an ever-present little mascot named Surya, develops full-blown AIDS, with festering and exploding sores and blood spewing out of his lips. Doctors give him less than a 10% chance of survival, but Rocky stays by his bedside for weeks on end, cleaning him up, tracking his myriad medicines, and doing his best to lift his spirits. Surya’s miraculous recovery – which even the doctors attribute largely to Rocky – is the only truly compelling material in the film. It proves the young men’s hearts are in the right place, even if the film’s focus is not.