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.