Movie Review: “Blood Brother”

I went into the theater expecting to cry. A movie about poor, Indian children with HIV/AIDS is heartbreaking, why wouldn’t I expect to be bawling my eyes out in five minutes?

But surprisingly, I found myself laughing more often than shedding tears. The documentary, “Blood Brother,” focused on the reality of what this young man, Rocky Braat, was doing for the orphanage in India, but the pleasant surprise was that this reality was not all bad. It wasn’t all tragic illness and hardship and death. It was definitely those things. But the reality was also that these children are just like any others- ones without AIDS, with both parents, with a need for love.

Rocky’s goal to care for all of these kids, to love them and treat them like they aren’t sick, is heroic. His decision to move to India, stay there, get married, and care for these kids, was obviously not made lightly. And considering he moved into a completely different culture, where, in his words, “they are 70 or 80 years behind the times,” it is no wonder he faced challenges. But he could overcome those because he knew that what he was doing had a purpose and it was bigger than himself. He was and is saving these kids.

Rocky and his friend, Steve, said multiple times before the movie played in the theater and in the movie, that they aren’t funny, they wish they were funnier, that India sucked the humor out of them. And yet the film was filled with every small, happy moment that you would never imagine a child living with HIV/AIDS in India to have. They ran and laughed and played. They were hung by their pants in trees and played practical jokes. They spoke with the innocence that only children have. They loved unconditionally because they were in such desperate need of love themselves. They smiled with their whole faces and were proud of even their smallest accomplishments. They fully enjoyed and appreciated pizza more than any American kid I know. And all of this made the audience laugh- made us love the kids ourselves, made us forget the fear of HIV/AIDS.

The biggest impact of this whole movie, I believe, is seeing the human emotions cross boundaries and cross cultures. We may not understand their religious customs, or their beliefs or rituals, or why they don’t have running water or toilets. We may not understand their eating habits or transportation or the way they build their houses. We may not get the way people in India live–but we understand their sadness. We see pain and suffering. We understand happiness and joy. We see the smiles and laughter. And we get that. And that is why people will see this movie and donate money to help Rocky and the orphanage. That is why people like Rocky go to these countries. That is why we can laugh when these kids make jokes and why we cry when we see them on the verge of death, battling AIDS. We may not understand cultures, but we understand human emotions.

This documentary also shed some light on AIDS and HIV. I don’t believe it was entirely intentional, but nevertheless, the audience is struck by how people view the disease. People in India have this view that HIV/AIDS is something to fear. They aren’t entirely educated about it. They are so afraid, they shun the women and children, won’t touch them or eat the same food. Disease and illness and death is scary. But these children can feel the fear and you can see that it kills them. That is what is heartbreaking–to see how the kids are affected by hatred.

What would any American do in that situation, though? Are we so superior, so much more educated that we wouldn’t fear them as well? How many people do you know with HIV or AIDS? This fear is not unfounded and it is not something to admonish. Many people are afraid. Fear is a lack of understanding, and HIV/AIDS is a difficult thing to understand. The important thing is to learn–to realize that the kids need love and attention and care, and that touching them and cooking their food does not pass on the disease.

This film shows a true and real side of children in India that is not all tragedy and despair. Those kids captured the hearts of the audience, just as they captured Rocky’s. I did cry at the end of the movie, as Rocky got married to a beautiful Indian girl and hugged his best friend and took pictures with the kids. I cried because he found his happiness in being with these orphans.

I had to quickly wipe my tears before the lights came up, and as I walked out of the theater into the city of Pittsburgh, all I could think was, “why do we need all this stuff?” 


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