Blood Brother | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Blood Brother

The locally produced, award-winning documentary about one man's transformative experience caring for Indian orphans

Rocky Braat (right), with Surya
Rocky Braat (right), with Surya

Steve Hoover's independently produced Blood Brother is the little documentary that could: Made on donations, it won big at Sundance earlier this year. But it also tells a similar, inspiring story — how one unlikely young man harnessed his own reserves, persevered against tough odds, and transformed his life and the lives of many others.

A couple of years ago, Rocky Braat journeyed to India, and found himself captivated by an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS. Adopting a volunteer role as teacher, caretaker, playmate, cook and foster family member — the kids call him "Rockyanna," meaning "big brother" — Braat made caring for these children his life's work. He invited his best friend, Pittsburgh filmmaker Hoover, to visit, and this footage comprises Blood Brother.

The film is deceptively low key, as footage of scenery and kids playing folds into the stark realities of life and death. There is joy here, but also misery and privation. Braat is a compelling guide, as he struggles not only with the day-to-day, but also with larger questions about what his role is as privileged outsider who has chosen this life. His own vulnerability is never far from the surface; like these orphans, Braat is also seeking a family. It is a path that will never run smooth, but the mutual benefits are irrefutable.

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