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Churches sponsoring screening of documentary in Indiana

by on December 26, 2013 10:55 AM

It’s impossible to watch the documentary “Blood Brother” and not walk out of the theater feeling that something has changed in you.

So says David Dillon, a Shelocta man who, along with members of several area church youth groups, is helping to organize an Indiana screening of the award-winning documentary next month.

The film, which will be shown at 1:30 and 7 p.m. Jan. 11 at the Indiana Theater in Indiana, was created by Steve Hoover, a native of Patton.

The film has won a dozen awards, among them the 2013 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and the 2013 Sundance 2013 Audience Award.

“Blood Brother” shares the story of Hoover’s best friend, Rocky Braat, and how he left a typical American life to care for orphans with AIDS living in Third World conditions.

A 2008 trip when Braat was in his mid-20s unexpectedly inspired him to change his life.

Ultimately, he left behind a successful graphic design job in Pittsburgh to live with and care for AIDS-stricken orphans in Chennai, capital of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The orphans’ plight not only moved Braat to take action. Based on film trailers and information from the filmmaker, the children made a positive impact on his life as well.

Words are barely enough to describe the film’s impact, according to Dillon’s 15-year-old daughter, Brianna, who is involved with the Church of the Resurrection youth group.

She recently took part in a screening of the film at Cambria Heights High School, which Hoover attended. Several of his relatives who still live in the area were in the audience. The filmmaker himself even called in via Skype to talk to them after the movie.

“It was so powerful to see the things that God calls us to do,” Brianna said of Braat’s story. “He decided to drop everything, his job, his life in Pittsburgh to be with these kids.”

Braat has now lived at the orphanage in Chennai for several years, caring for the children’s medical needs. He also serves as a father figure or big brother-like presence for the orphans who, because of their condition, are placed on the bottom rung of India’s caste system and regarded as untouchable.

“A lot of them, their parents couldn’t take care of them or didn’t want them,” Dillon said. “To watch him take care of them and clean their wounds, to give up his whole life and take care of these kids — it’s a wonderful story for the kids to see.”

“We’re just trying to inspire people, show them that there are wonderful things going on in the world,” said Father Timothy Kruthaupt, the parochial vicar at Church of the Resurrection Parish, which serves northern Indiana County. He has been working with youth groups to bring movies such as “Blood Brother” to the area.

“For me, being a part of this, I’m just a facilitator,” Kruthaupt said. “I want the young people to take hold, to come up with ideas for promotion it, to sell tickets, to do the ushering, to show them you can start stepping into these gifts you have and use them.”

The film has inspired youth group members to work hard at spreading the word about the screening. They have been giving small presentations and selling tickets after Mass on Sundays and are working with their respective high schools to promote the film to fellow students.

According to Becky Hilditch, director of faith formation and youth ministry at St. Bernard of Clairvaux in White Township, even teens who have only seen the film trailer are already deeply touched by the story.

“They’re actually moved by the fact that somebody has given up everything, because that is sometimes so far outside of our comprehension.”

“These are not actors. These are real children. This is something that’s real.”

That reality is one that Hilditch wants to caution viewers about — the film may not be suitable for younger children because of the graphic depictions of the children’s medical conditions.

“We deal with some pretty nasty things in life, but imagine what (Braat) goes through and what these children go through,” she said.

Proceeds from the Indiana Theater screenings will go to the orphanage depicted in the film. Organizers anticipate that the story has much to offer viewers, regardless of their religious denomination or personal beliefs.

“I hope that people realize that we can all make a difference in somebody else’s life, even a complete stranger’s, if we just keep mindful of how we act and what we say to each other,” Hilditch said. “We can all make that difference every day in our life, if we’re just aware of it.”

Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for the Indiana Gazette. Among her assignments are coverage of the Apollo-Ridge School and Penns Manor Area school districts and also White Township.
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