Uncle America
January 23, 2014 10:08 PM   Subscribe

Blood Brother (2013) focuses on an American man who, after initially visiting as a tourist, moved to India to volunteer at the Arias Home of HOPE, a home for HIV-positive children in Acharapakkam, near Chennai. He eventually became an Indian citizen by marriage.

Originally funded on Kickstarter with the working title Uncle America, the film went on to win both the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for a documentary and the U.S. Audience Award for a documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. On Monday it premiered as an episode of Independent Lens on PBS.
Every dollar of profit from Blood Brother is being donated. Fifty percent is being donated directly to Red Hot Organization and Arms Around the Child. The other half is being donated to Rocky through L.I.G.H.T. to build half-way homes for HIV positive orphans and supply vocational training to build a bridge to healthy adulthood.

All proceeds from the book will go to help Rocky in his work.
posted by XMLicious (7 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I saw it at a film festival back in October. It's well worth seeing—among other things, it shows some of Rocky's moments of self-doubt, which makes the movie seem more real, and Rocky more human, than other docs in a similar vein.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:24 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also came across a couple of news stories that appear to correspond to the period mentioned in the film when the people living nearby first realized that most of the children at the home had AIDS: The Times of India, The New Indian Express
posted by XMLicious at 11:09 PM on January 23, 2014

Another trailer
posted by XMLicious at 11:44 PM on January 23, 2014

I'll be honest, for me it was wrenching when in the first trailer, he says "I can't take any of them out of the situation, but I can put myself into it." I will watch the documentary when either it comes here or I can get it on Netflix, but I will do it on a day when I am ready for the emotions.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:50 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely. In case it isn't clear from the descriptions, the film involves graphic depiction of children suffering from the complications of untreated or poorly-treated HIV in and out of hospital ICUs and in some cases passing away.
posted by XMLicious at 11:58 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tom Roston of Doc Soup wrote some stuff about how the film conceals/elides/ignores both the filmmaker and the subject's evangelical Christian background and affiliation. The filmmaker responded on his website.
posted by eugenen at 4:57 AM on January 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

As much as I would be entertained by a secret Christian conspiracy to control the media, I was underwhelmed by the evidence presented for a hidden agenda when I came across that. Near the beginning Roston says "his faith is never referenced in the documentary" but much further down acknowledges that in the film "Braat invokes God and speaks of praying" and that Hoover's narration following the scene in question says "Rocky believes that God saved Surya’s life" then tries to handwave it away with "such invocations are almost secular given the extreme situation."

Plus, like, the whole film ends in a Christian wedding ceremony, albeit an Indian one. And at least a couple of the articles I ran into mention that part of Braat's agenda on his first visit to India was to visit was to visit Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying in Kolkata.

Roston just isn't the super-sleuth he makes himself out to be and I don't find the film to be hagiography the way he does: if it were to come out that Braat had done shady stuff in his past or if he eventually decides to dump his wife and leave India, or simply move to some place with plumbing and toilets, I wouldn't be shocked because I wasn't left with the impression that he's superhuman.

I could believe that the filmmakers de-emphasized the role of religion in the story, though I could also believe that these guys are actually Christians who don't talk about Jesus and God all the time or care a great deal about proselytizing, because I've known people like that. It seems most likely to me that filmmakers working their craft for a general audience and a world-wide one in the 21st century just recognize that they can't lean on Christian tropes (and don't need to) to tell a story.
posted by XMLicious at 12:09 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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