Combustible Celluloid
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With: Rocky Braat, Steve Hoover
Written by: Steve Hoover, Phinehas Hodges, Tyson VanSkiver
Directed by: Steve Hoover
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 92
Date: 10/18/2013

Blood Brother (2013)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

India Calling

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Not everyone has a best friend like Rocky Braat. Most best friends go to restaurants or bars or games or movies, but Rocky goes to India. While there, he ends up volunteering at an AIDS hostel for children. This life decision has such a profound effect on Rocky, that Rocky invites his best friend Steve Hoover to visit him there. Steve also decides to make a documentary about it.

As Blood Brother begins, Rocky's visa has expired and he has been forced to return to the U.S. for paperwork. He clearly feels out of sorts. We learn that Rocky never had much of a family relationship at home. When he returns to India, we see children rushing at him, climbing on him, and weeping with joy. We might remember that these children all have AIDS from various conditions that are mostly unexplained. Rocky is not afraid of them at all.

Rocky is the only person without AIDS at the shelter (besides the cook, we're told), and certainly the only Westerner. But he has found something there that is fulfilling him in ways he could have never explained. Steve looks on in awe most of the time, often getting out of the way and letting Rocky's actions tell his own story.

We see Rocky playing with the kids, and cleaning up messes. But the biggest drama happens when some of the kids grow fatally ill. Rocky attempts to rush one girl to the hospital, but certain delays cost the girl her life. (A flabbergasted Steve returns to some footage of her shot just a few days earlier, showing the beautiful little girl, all full of life.) Another boy goes to the hospital, and Rocky stays by his side for several weeks, in grueling conditions, helping clean the boy and keeping his spirits up. The boy goes from a 10% chance of recovery to walking out of the hospital.

We also learn that Rocky has fallen in love with a local girl, although he's cagey about talking about her. It could be that he's just looking for some roots of his own. He embarks on the customary Indian dating rituals, which Steve discreetly leaves off-camera.

Steve narrates the movie from time to time, and though this feels somewhat unnecessary, he really only does it sparingly, and only to provide certain facts and details. His camerawork is quite striking, making a bold use of bright colors; the children appear playful and loveable, as opposed to those TV commercials where the price of a cup of coffee a day could save a child's life. Steve also remarks that the children do their best to live their lives day to day, rather than wallowing in misfortune and sorrow.

If you're thinking you don't want to see another AIDS documentary, please keep in mind that this isn't anything harrowing or self-important. It's really Rocky's story, and it's a truly amazing story of selflessness and heroism, but also self-exploration and self-doubt. It's an often touching story, and even the hardest hearts will be melted.

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