Oscar Night has come and gone, but I’d like to tell you about a film, “Blood Brother,” that should have received recognition at the awards ceremony but did not.
First, the film. “Blood Brother” is a wonderfully directed, moving documentary about a young American, Rocky Braat, who travels to Chennai, India, and does what I didn’t do a decade ago on a visit to that same city: Mother Teresa-like, Braat stays on for years to work and play with HIV-infected orphans. We see the sores and the blood. We hear Braat’s acknowledgment that it “took some time not to see that, but to see the kids.”
Second, the fame. “Blood Brother” in 2013 unprecedentedly won both the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize and its Audience Award. As the Film Collaborative website noted in January, “There is no doubt that Sundance is the best launching pad for documentaries in the U.S. if not the world.” Four out of five times from 2008 to 2012 a Sundance award-winning documentary received an Oscar nomination.
Third, the frustration: Sundance success was no fluke, as “Blood Brother” won big awards at Atlanta, Milan, and many other festivals. And yet, the film didn’t even make the 15-documentary Oscar “shortlist,” let alone receive a Best Documentary nomination. Regarding distribution, Film Collaborative reports that “Blood Brother” “failed to generate major buyer interest.?…?The film has become one of the lower grossing performers for a major festival award winner.”
Fourth, the faith: One small line among a long list of credits and acknowledgments at the end of “Blood Brother” notes Rocky Braat’s faith in Christ. The film has almost no mention of God, except when Braat stays in the hospital for days with an HIV-infected, apparently dying boy, selflessly wiping his blood and boils. Director Steve Hoover, narrating the film, informs us that “Rocky believes God saved Surya’s life. The doctors believe Rocky saved Surya’s life.”
Fifth, the affiliation: “Blood Brother” doesn’t indicate this, but Braat and Hoover are or were members of the Greater Pittsburgh Church of Christ, part of the International Churches of Christ (ICOC). The film gives neither the name nor any background on the orphanage that Rocky adopted, but googling “Chennai, HIV, orphanage” and watching a bunch of orphanage videos I learned (comparing images) that the orphanage name is Arias Home, and that it’s a product of the Hope Foundation, affiliated with Hope Worldwide, which at a website mentions its “valued relationship” with ICOC.