‘Blood Brother’ Director Steve Hoover Pens Open-Letter Addressing Christian Propaganda Accusations

'Blood Brother' Director Steve Hoover Pens Open-Letter Addressing Christian Propaganda Accusations

When “Blood Brother” premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, it was rapturously received by critics and audiences alike. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, “Blood Brother” is director Steve Hoover’s document of his wayward best friend, Rocky Braat, in his journey through India, as he is transformed by his work with HIV-infected youth. Though the film was–somewhat puzzlingly–not picked up by a major distributor, the production’s partnership with Tugg has brought “Blood Brother” to over 50 cities.

Recently, however, it seems the good nature surrounding the documentary has been replaced with hostile accusations that Braat and Hoover were in the country on not so much a selfless mission, as a Christian one. In his takedown over at Doc Soup, Tom Roston cites Christopher Campbell’s Nonfics review, which drew attention to the filmmakers’ involvement with the Greater Pittsburgh Church of Christ: “Many will see ‘Blood Brother’ as primarily a film about Braat and
about the kids. They’ll see him as a selfless, saintly character and
the orphans as being in need. And maybe it won’t bother anyone to know
that he’s basically a Christian missionary who has been converting the
kids.”

Well, it appears Steve Hoover has had enough of the allegations tying his faith to filmmaking, and has taken to the film’s website to address the controversy:

“I’ve been surprised by the unfounded
claim that Blood Brother is somehow secret evangelical propaganda. The
idea that I made this film with some nefarious agenda would be funny to
me if it wasn’t so potentially harmful.  Neither Rocky nor myself
consider ourselves evangelicals. We are both Christians, but we have no
interest in pushing intolerant political agendas or using legislation to
enforce doctrine. Nor do I see filmmaking as a means to fill the pews
or make converts.  I had no secret agenda.

Tom Roston of POV blog wrote an article
I found particularly troubling, attempting to create the case that I
deliberately disguised Rocky’s faith in the film.  This simply isn’t
true.  Rocky’s faith is mentioned many times in the film, both in
dialogue and in narration, yet Roston claims that the film’s approach to
faith seems “secular.”  This may come from a frustration that Rocky
doesn’t fit within a cookie-cutter cliché of a Republican, Evangelical,
American Christian.  I understand why Roston might be tempted to group
Rocky with certain vocal and very visible faith groups, but Rocky’s not
that kind of Christian. His faith (among many complex motivations
explored in the film) inspires him to love people in tangible ways, like
cleaning the wounds and open sores of children with HIV with little
regard for his own safety. That love isn’t some elaborate trick to get
people to convert. When he takes a sick Hindu man to the hospital,
there’s no expectation that the man will change his beliefs.  Rocky
cares for him because he needs care.  Love is an end to itself.”

Hoover nevertheless urges his audience to see the film, and decide for themselves.

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Comments

Piedmont Jim

"…accusations that Braat and Hoover were in the country on not so much a selfless mission, as a Christian one."

Why must it be assumed that the two are mutually exclusive when they are not? It sounds like Christophobia to me.

Carol

Absolutely Jane Hannen. This criticism is nonsense. The documentary is beautiful.

Jane Hannen

Until any skeptics, critics, or jealous haters clean lesions on an HIV infected child, how dare you bring up the "accusation" of religious agenda? Without an agenda we fail, regardless of the motive. I am not a Christian, but I recognize love and humanity far greater than anything I am capable of when I see it and am deeply humbled. There for the grace of GOD go I, and YOU, whoever your God is.

mario ducoudray

Cheers to Mr Parris!
Mr. Roston is the one using tricks. He is either consciously or unconsciously bating confrontations that, all at once, demonize Evangelicalism while stirring up conflict where there is none. Mr Parris in a man who is projecting his own moral compass, a broken compass apparently, onto the filmmakers who are engaged in a selfless act that he knows nothing of. He is incapable of relating to a good deed – indeed. Moreover, his anti-humanist remarks lack emotional intelligence, gravitas, and depth. It seems clear that if he, Mr Roston, were ever in Rocky's position he would grab his GPS and run for the nearest exit.

Dan Parris

I find this whole thing very interesting. First, how the word "Evangelical" has become a bad thing and is the same as "Fundamentalist", which it is not. In Wikipedia, Evangelicalism is defined as a focus on conversion, the Bible, Jesus Death & Resurrection, and Activism. It is estimated it makes up 90 million people in the U.S. It is by no means a small sect and basically could include most Protestant denominations. Its basically plain old Christianity with overwhelming similarities to every other Christian viewpoint in the world.

Second, I wish filmmakers who happened to be Christians would just say "Yeah, I am a Christian. That obviously affects my worldview and thus my career. Everyone's worldview affects what they do. Doesn't mean I was doing anything "nefarious". Would I like people to become Christians? Well, yes. I am one because I believe its true and that it matters. Watch my film and take my claims in it at face value. Decide for yourself. Hope it changes you in someway positive."

Lia W.

It's sad that when people do good deeds it can't just be admired. It's sad that our world if full of cynical people who have the need not only to question a good deed but exploit it. If you see someone do good, do it too. How about that concept? If you see someone do good encourage it maybe they'll keep doing it. Don't we cheer our athletes who we know do things just for money? If someone were doing something to save your life would you thank them or wonder what there motives were? Let's just stand and cheer for those who do good deed's. Don't you think that we need more good deeds in this life?

Joe H.

Oh my god, why do "christian missionary" and "selfless and saintly" have to be oxymoronic? Did it not occur to some of these narrow-minded, intolerant critics that the fact that he is a Christian has perhaps positively influenced his desire to do good? Or is that something they don't understand? Get off your high-ass horses.

DJ

"But the notion that a documentary can be an island is just not true. Even if we are to take all of Hoover’s points on face value, it doesn’t mean that his faith isn’t all over that movie. The question is, have audiences been misled in a way that should be challenged?"

Roston's statement is so obvious, and his reviews, patently absurd, that it's hard to believe he's been a journalist for as long as his credits suggest. Well, of course, any film, novel, painting, et al. reflect curatorial choices, biases, beliefs, thoughts and views of the world; that's inherent to any work of art. What seems to prick Roston's conscience — besides his own ignorance of theological nuance and spectrum of belief, and myopia — is the specter of that "shuddering fanaticism" coming to wreak havoc on unsuspecting audiences and cinephiles, as if they are as blind and ignorant as he seems to presume.

Never mind that faith traditions, like Hoover's, can actually promote virtues like service and love. That couldn't possibly fit into Rolston's narrative of religious bigotry.

Christopher Campbell

Thank you for mentioning my review. I wasn't the one to make the connection to his church affiliation, though. And I think it's interesting that this has turned into claims that it is propaganda when in my review I asked if it was and said I wouldn't say so.

Paul

Tom Roston's rambling article is deeply offensive and paranoid. He's essentially in the boots of an SS trooper demanding papers. Enough said.

Jesse Phillips

It sounds like the critics are conflating selfless, unconditional love with the Christian religion. That gives far too much credit to contemporary Christians and not enough credit to people who just want to do good.

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