After 15 glorious, screening-packed days that offered up 241 films (104 features and 137 shorts), playing at three local theaters – the Oriental, the Downer and the Fox-Bay Cinema Grill – the final day of the 2013 Milwaukee Film Festival has sadly arrived.
Last weekend, at an invite-only function where the winners of this year’s festival jury awards were announced, Jonathan Jackson, artistic and executive director of the festival, pointed something out an interesting fact that most festival patrons likely never take into account: It takes a village, and the better part of a year, to program and organize the city’s film festival.
As was the case last year, there were a record number of festival screenings that have gone to rush status (meaning advance tickets are no longer available), including tonight’s closing night film, Blood Brother, from director Steve Hoover, making his directorial debut with this award-winning, critically acclaimed documentary about a young man who traveled to the other side of the world in order to find solace and a purpose, and in the process, found both and so much more.
Five years ago, Pittsburgh native Rocky Braat traveled to India “seeking authenticity.” He was adrift, and hoped that his one-man pilgrimage to the wilds of southern India would prove beneficial. As the old adage goes, “be careful what you wish for…”
During that pilgrimage, Braat reluctantly visited an orphanage that houses children living with HIV/AIDS near Chennai, the capital city of the South India state of Tamil Nadu. So moved by the children and their plight – an interesting development considering that at one point in the film Braat confesses that he previously really didn’t like kids – he eventually ended his sightseeing tour of India earlier than expected and traveled back to the orphanage (which also serves as a shelter for women living with HIV/AIDS) to volunteer his time and services before having to return home to the US thanks to an expired traveling visa.
Within a year of his first visit, Braat returned to India to continue volunteering at the orphanage and encouraged his best friend, Steve Hoover, a professional filmmaker, to pay him a visit. And with that, Blood Brother was born. Footage predating Hoover’s visit is presumably shot by Braat utilizing his camera phone.
The film won both the coveted Audience and Jury Awards (for Documentary) earlier this year at the Sundance International Film Festival, and has collected additional prizes at various film festivals around the world.
In Justin Lowe’s review of the film for Variety, a Hollywood trade publication, he calls the film, “an incisive and compassionate documentary that’s as much a transformative experience for audiences as it was for the filmmakers…Much as Born Into Brothels provided perspective on another population of Indian kids dealing with seemingly insurmountable problems, Blood Brother evokes the inspiration and dedication required to nurture children who might otherwise have no other hope.”
Blood Brother screens tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Oriental Theatre (2230 N. Farwell Ave.). Filmmaker Steve Hoover will be in attendance tonight and will take part in a post-screening Q&A.
The 93-minute film is not rated.
All advanced tickets have sold out, but rush tickets may be available 15 minutes before the start of the screening for $10 each (cash only, no discounts) on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Check the festival’s website for further details.