Review: ‘Blood Brother,’ equipped with love, confronts AIDS in India

(This post has been updated. See below.)

Director Steve Hoover’s documentary feature debut, “Blood Brother,” is an uncomplicated hagiography of his friend Rocky Braat, a caretaker for HIV-positive orphans in rural India. Nevertheless, the gorgeously shot film is also a deeply affecting psychological portrait of a young do-gooder as he adapts to the regularity of tragedy in his new life.

Many of Braat’s charges die, while the healthier children are stigmatized for their disease. One little girl recounts how her mother took an “abortion injection” in an attempt to kill her in the womb upon realizing the baby might be born with AIDS. When the drug didn’t work, the father killed himself instead.

The routineness of catastrophe eventually sends Braat into such a tailspin that he endeavors to marry a villager to soothe himself. But he can’t date her — nor, it turns out, can they communicate. Braat’s botched attempts to make her laugh are as painful to watch as anything in the film.

Hoover’s stubbornly ground-level perspective renders the documentary’s lack of context about HIV in India — or even the funding behind the AIDS orphanage where Braat works — rather frustrating. But “Blood Brother” feels important anyway, not so much as a snapshot of one volunteer but for its passionate portrayal of the curative powers of love — a resource much too scarce in this world.


(Update: An earlier version of this post misspelled the last name of director Steve Hoover as Hooper.)


“Blood Brother”

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Playing: Laemmle’s Royal, Los Angeles.