A Movie Review by David Morehouse
I recently watched a documentary called, Blood Brother (2013), by a young documentarian, Steve Hoover. From what I can research, this was Steve’s first documentary film. If it is, he will have a long and amazing career in documentary film. What he was able to do in portraying this story was simply astounding. I’m proud of him, and grateful for his efforts.
The film is about a young man facing life, and trying to live “authentically.” His friend, Robin “Rocky” Braat, is a childhood buddy, his best friend, whom he’d grown up with in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The film begins with Steve telling us about Rocky, and his concern that he was taking a wrongful poorly thought out path in life, and how he could not for the life of him understand the thought process and actions of his buddy.
Rocky, begins his story sharing his early life, and the difficulties he had finding love purpose, and how that left him feeling empty and unchallenged. He is young, I think 27 years old, and I can tell you that at that age, I was a young Infantry Lieutenant, and I thought I was on purpose, and I thought I knew what I was doing and how and why I was doing it. However, I am constantly reminded these days exactly how uninformed, and without purpose I was in those days. I chuckle now, but I see it all around me. The levels of maturity in so many young men and how they impress me with how they process and think about life and their role in it.
I love documentary film. I’ve told all of you this before. I love watching the portrayal of different aspects of life, and seeing how others make their way, make a difference, and how well someone else can master telling the story. Of course that is the role of the documentarian, and, some do it well, some do it perfectly, and others only infuriate me with their one-sided corruption in story telling. If they do well, if I am inspired, motivated, reflective and moved—I simply have to share that feeling with people who matter to me—all of you. If it is the opposite, I’ll say nothing.
I have to say that I am typically not motivated to watch a film covering the suffering of others. I know it is there, and I’ve seen it, tasted it, lived in it (to a degree), and for whatever reason I don’t want to dwell on it in my life. I don’t want to read about it, or visit it, and forgive me for this statement, but I am dead set on the idea that if we are to involve ourselves in efforts to stop suffering, begin here at home first and look elsewhere last. I know I preach “world peace” but I it is the pragmatist in me that accepts I can only change what I can get my hands on. I know that we have the collective power to move the world, but true change begins not in a large cast emotional net, but a focused roll-up your sleeves effort by one or more of us to do something extraordinary in this life. I believe that if we effect change where change is needed, in front of us, we can cause that critical mass effort to spread across the world. However, the change truly beings where you can focus your energy—it does not necessarily happen when you spread that energy across a broad, borderless and undefined target of…”the world.”
I hope that does not cause you to misunderstand me. I don’t want you to think I do not believe we can change the world. I want you to understand that such change begins with each of us, and it begins were each of us can focus and work. You must be able to “do something” not just “think about doing something.” Therein lies the rub.
Obviously one is easier than the other, and one is far more popular than the other. There are countless opportunities to present “us” as supporters of change; to become paper revolutionaries working actively for a better world. Conversely, there are those who everyday work to improve something in a big way. They work quietly in difficult circumstances to make a difference in the suffering that is an everyday existence for others.
This is one such story, and it is a story that was so poignant, and so powerfully told, that I sat there with my computer on my lap, while actively trying to keep my tears out of the keyboard. It is true, I was that moved by this story. Why?
It is difficult to say. I watched openly and I tried to understand how this story was different than others.
I watched trying to understand why a young man with an entire life ahead of him chose this role in life.
I wanted to understand why this young man opted to spend his life in a far away place like India, and not in Philadelphia trying to make a difference there in his home town, where he was known and supported.
Surely, there are people suffering just down the street and around the corner. Why, would you travel literally half a world away to involve yourself? How and why do you decide that? What factors motivate you? Are you running away from your life here? Or, do you awaken one day with an image left over from a dream you had of some far away exotic place, and make the decision to follow the trails of that dream and go to India? I don’t know.
Watching and listening to Rocky talk about his life; I began to understand his reasons—I think. I think Rocky knew a few things before he left Philly. I think he knew he felt his life was inauthentic, and if he stayed there, finished his career choices, got married, had a family and lived out his life following some premeasured, precut template—that he would be wasting his life.
That is the analysis that caught me off guard. That is where I thought to myself, “Where does that sort of awareness come from? How does a young man come to that kind of conclusion? What a powerful, intellectual, clear and mature manner of thought for such a relatively young and inexperienced man to have. I never thought like that at his age, never.”
However, I see it more and more these days. I hear similar life processes from young people like my son (Mike), my stepson (Jason), and my stepdaughter (Courtney). I hear I from their friends, and every time I do, I think, “My God, we are doing something right in this life if this generation is so powerfully anchored in wisdom.” I’m not jealous; they inspire me. I’m proud of them, in awe of them, and I know that in not too many more years my life will be in their hands. How I finish this existence, will in some way rely on them and how they choose to live now.
Now read on.
In his quest to live an authentic life, Rocky moves to India. Now I did not say, in a quest to live a more authentic life, I said, to live authentically. You see he did not see his life as authentic to begin with. That too is a courageous testament to ones ideas and conclusions about ones self; isn’t it? His choices were made beginning with a self-recognition that his life was not authentic to begin with. So rather than muddying the water with a quest to be more authentic, he chose his words more carefully, and opted to seek a path to live an “authentic” life.
Once in India, Rocky is part of a group exploring and working, offering themselves in various capacities as “white kings and queens” to serve the poor of India in whatever capacity needed. In his portrayal of the early days and weeks of his time there, he thought it was perhaps wasted time; that it was a fake effort on his and his colleagues’ part. He was working with HIV positive AIDS orphans in a small orphanage attached to a minuscule inland village. To be honest, in my day, that would be enough for me to proclaim personal victory. To say, I’ve done something special to make a difference. But Rocky opted to stay there and not move on to other places and efforts. He also did not live in housing that was typically used for “white” volunteers; meaning a house with a toilet, running water, kitchen and of course, air-conditioning. By choice, his home had none of these amenities.
Because a housing choice that included these amenities would separate him from “them,” he chose to live as the locals do. Better yet, he chose to live as the orphans he supported lived. He lived as the poorest of them, the outcasts, the leftovers of that society. For that, he was accepted as genuine, as “authentic.” I thought how ingenious, how does a young man figure that out?
It wasn’t a grand scheme, it wasn’t a strategy; it was simply a young man deciding it was the right thing to do because that is what his heart told him to do.
Hopefully at this point you will want to watch the documentary. That is my desire for you. I think this story is just so layered and incredibly deep that it amazes me. I’m not trying to make it more than it is, but I want to inspire you to watch it. I know you will be moved and inspired to do something great; to live differently even if only for a moment. The story might inspire you to get up and do something different this weekend, or this holiday season. It might cause you to carry food in a bag behind your drivers seat so that the next time a beggar is standing at the stoplight, you have something to reach for, instead of wagging a finger, which I have done. It might cause you to keep change or folding bills handy for the same reason. I don’t know. It might cause you to look online for a place where you can serve for a day, a week, perhaps even longer. Or, maybe you will try to find Rocky and send him and his orphanage some funding. Whatever you do, it will be something fantastic—I know it.
What I know is that Rocky’s story, and the personalities and love of the kids in that orphanage changed me. I saw a man cross boundaries physically, emotionally, and spiritually that we all need to find a way to cross. We don’t have to clean the wounds of AIDS afflicted children, eat with them, play with them, love them, and accept their love. We don’t have to do that, but when I see a film wonderfully portraying a story like this. A story of love and sacrifice; it makes me want to be a better person. It makes me want to find ways to be a better human, to be more loving of this world and those in it. It makes me want to be better in any way that I can find to be in a positive way, and, admittedly, it can be difficult to find those kinds of motivators these days.
Please find the time to watch this film. If you are so inclined, find a way to share your prosperity, be it time or money, or love—whatever your heart tells you to do. Just as there are children in India needing love and friendship, the kind Rocky shared, there is need here, or wherever you are. You can travel across the world or you can look across town and find opportunity.
Watching how young Rocky worked to change it, in an amazingly huge way, might inspire us to change something similar in some way. If each of us made some effort, even if slight, it would become a wave of positive change washing across the planet. Perhaps that is how it is supposed to work. Perhaps that is the plan we all are presented with and videos such as this serve as gentle reminders of what we are capable of as a species.
I miss you all. Stay well and happy, and I’ll speak with you again soon.