Saturday, January 25, 2014


The rage !  The anguish !  The agony ! Watching PBS' Independent lens, I watch little children in India dying of AIDS. Bad enough! But so many of those beautiful boys and girls are suffering because of the cruelty of villagers who make themselves gods and refuse medical help.
Their ignorance and arrogance and superstition force little children to undergo magical rituals while they wither away full of sores and pain - and they die - not only from the disease, but because of the acts of their own people.
Anyone coming into their territory to help is subject to hatred and accusations. A lovely little girl is finally swept away from the villageras with almost no life left in her as the young man in this PBS film tries to get her to a hospital. The child is too far gone. She dies. The arrogant community leaders blame her rescuer for her death.
This is what is happening in India today. The ignorance and superstition and arrogance of people who make themselves gods are killing hundreds of little children.

Rocky Braat and one of the many HIV-positive orphans he is working with in India

Rocky Braat and one of the many
HIV-positive orphans he is working with in India

Why would someone leave everything behind to devote their life to helping others? Director Steve Hoover explores that question in Blood Brother, the remarkable story of his long-time friend Rocky Braat, who did exactly that. A young man from a fractured family and a troubled past, Braat went traveling through India without a plan. There he met a group of HIV-positive children living in an orphanage — a meeting that changed everything for him.

Braat left his life, friends, and career in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to live with the kids. Filmmaker Steve Hoover was intrigued and unnerved by his best friend's radical life change. In an effort to find out what compelled him to give up every source of stability in his life, Hoover decided to trace Braat's story, following him to India.

He witnessed Rocky and the kids endure disease, abject poverty, and death. But in the midst of all these troubles, he also saw their deep joy, and came to understand why Rocky had given up everything he had to experience it. Blood Brother is a story of friendship and of life stripped down to its essence.

As tragic as are the stories of adults with HIV, those involving children –and orphaned children at that – who are HIV-positive are even more heart-breaking, and rarely if ever told. Blood Brother, the newest entry in the Independent Lens series on PBS, tells that story, and does it by following a remarkable young man from Pittsburgh who gave up everything to help such afflicted children in India.

Rocky Braat is that man, and his good friend director Steve Hoover was so moved by Rocky's selflessness that he followed him to India to chronicle his story. And what a story it is: a deeply moving, heart-rending yet also incredibly uplifting tale of both how a jaded, disillusioned and lost young man helped those in dire need – and at the same time was himself given a new outlook and purpose on life by the very children he came to aid.

from Blood Brother

Rocky: I was moved by my entire experience in India, but there are two very moving scenes in Blood Brother for me. The death of Vemethi was especially troubling because I had never witnessed a child dying. It was especially difficult because I had known her prior to her death, she wasn't a complete stranger. It was sad to know that she didn't have to die, it could have been prevented. The most victorious and moving scene to me, though, was Surya's entire hospital experience. I have too much to say about it all, but there's nothing more inspiring than seeing someone come so close to death, then turning the corner and coming back to life. Despair to hope, it was a glorious time.

I hope that the film not only deeply benefits the subjects, giving them more resources and opportunities for life, but also hope the film will inspire audiences on a personal level. I don't have specifics for what I want people to do with that inspiration; I believe that's up to the individual to figure that out. However, we do have outlets for people to get involved to help with the causes and people in the film.

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