It's hard to say when social worker Rocky Braat received his call to care for children and women suffering from HIV and AIDS at an orphanage in India.
"Rocky had a difficult childhood," says film director and Braat's good friend Steve Hoover. "Some of that is addressed in 'Blood Brother.' I think he was looking for an authentic experience, something that was real."
"Blood Brother," 2012, Director Steve Hoover
Shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Sunday, Aug. 16 and 18.
"The Dreams of Elibidi," 2010, Directors Nick Reding and Kamau Wa Ndung'u
Shows at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17.
"Fire in the Blood," 2012, Director Dylan Mohan Gray
Shows at 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, and 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18.
"How to Survive a Plague," 2012, Director David France
Shows at 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 17-18.
"We Were Here," 2011, Director David Weissman
Shows at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18.
Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival box office.
"Blood Brother," directed and narrated by Hoover and produced by Danny Yourd, documents Braat's personal strife at the orphanage. Life is hard there. He lives in a concrete hut with no running water. He wants to heal everyone in his charge, but, in reality, can cure not one. Some days, he despairs. Other days, there are surprising moments of joy.
Tightly edited from high-definition video footage, hand-held cameras, photographs and other archive video, Hoover's film has the emotional swell of a narrative feature, with portrayals of real people in real situations.
"Big Brother," released in 2012, won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for documentary and Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
The documentary kicks off Oregon Shakespeare Festival's new Daedalus Film Fest — produced in partnership with the Ashland Independent Film Festival and Coming Attractions Theatres.
Five award-winning documentaries about the ongoing global HIV and AIDS crisis will be screened Friday through Sunday, Aug. 16-18, at the Varsity Theatre, 166 E. Main St., Ashland. Tickets cost $10 for each screening and can be purchased at the OSF box office, not at the Varsity box office. Call 800-219-8161 or see www.osfashland.org/daedalusfilmfest.
Though it might be easy to think there's nothing left to examine about the HIV and AIDS epidemic, director Hoover demonstrates in his film that there's still much to say and learn.
When Braat first visited the orphanage in 2008, its location was in the city of Chennai, in Tamil Nadu. It now sits outside of the city because of the fear of contagion.
"He was drifting around India with a friend," Hoover says. "At first they thought the country was too challenging, but Rocky was struck with the idea that he could walk out of the orphanage ... but the children couldn't."
Braat and Hoover were roommates at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where Hoover studied digital media production and Braat graphic design.
Hoover and a small crew made the first trip to India in early 2011, staying with Braat in his one-room, concrete hut, filming and managing data. Hoover returned in October of that year to finish the documentary.
"At first I just wanted to tell Rocky's story," Hoover says. "But when I arrived at the orphanage, I saw a potential in film for bringing help and support to people or causes. It was my first documentary and my first trip to a developing country. There was so much that impacted our work and our perspectives."
Hoover had worked on commercials and videos before, selling products and trying to make people look cool, he says.
"Now I want to make more films that ultimately bring people help," he says. "I want to use filmmaking to make a difference. I want that to be part of my career."
Along with "Blood Brother," other films featured at the new Daedalus Film Fest include "The Dreams of Elibidi" — a 2010 HIV awareness drama first written as a play by British actor Nick Reding and Kenyan actor and director Kamau Wa Ndung'u, then produced by Sponsored Arts for Education. "Fire in the Blood" (2012), directed by Dylan Mohan Gray, is a story about pharmaceutical companies and governments that block access to low-cost drugs in Africa and India, causing millions to succumb to AIDS. "How to Survive a Plague" (2012), directed by David France, and "We Were Here" (2011), directed by David Weissman, also are on the slate.
Question-and-answer discussions will follow most screenings, and the film festival will culminate at noon Monday, Aug. 19, with a panel discussion titled "Acting Up: Artistic Responses to HIV/AIDS," moderated by actor Anthony Heald, in OSF's Carpenter Hall. The panel will include filmmakers and OSF company members.
The film festival is a new addition to OSF's annual Daedalus Project, a fundraiser that includes a play reading in the Angus Bowmer Theatre and a variety show on the Elizabethan Stage on Aug. 19. Call the OSF box office for showtimes and ticket availability. All proceeds support OSF's efforts to assist people living with HIV or AIDS.