The English language is vast and has a plethora of words. Yet I can’t think of two more somber words than “AIDS orphanage.” One young man named Rocky Braat decided to leave New York to work in such an orphanage in India. After he had spent some time there, his best friend Steve Hoover traveled to see him to see what his life is like. The results are astonishing.
We were so fortunate to talk to Steve about his friend Rocky, the joy he found there and what he was just doing in the Ukraine.
Heartland Film Festival: I’m fascinated to know how this movie was conceived. How long were you and Rocky discussing the idea that you would go to India to see what this life is like?
Steve Hoover: Rocky was already living in India for a year before I talked with him about filming. He had been asking me to go with him to India ever since his first trip, but I was never interested. It was a desire of mine to make a documentary ever since I took an interest in filmmaking but I was busy pursuing a commercial and music video career. It hit me one day after reading an email from Rocky that he and his life could be an interesting subject. I proposed the idea of making a documentary about him and he was very open to the idea.
Heartland Film Festival: What was your filming situation like? It seemed limited because very few crew members sneaked in front of the camera but the film is filled from beginning to end with gorgeous shots that I figured you had to have had more help while you were there.
Steve Hoover: We had a total of six crew members, but the crew’s presence in India was staggered throughout the trip. Initially four of us returned to India with Rocky. One, my wife, left after two weeks. The rest of us stayed for five weeks. During that time two extra crew members came out for ten days of heavy principle photography. Towards the end of the year we ran out of money so I returned to India alone for [a major scene in the end of the film]and to finish filming there.
Heartland Film Festival: You’ve known Rocky for years but as a filmmaker you have to introduce him to a new audience. What was it like to depict him cinematically how you know him intimately?
Steve Hoover: I spent years getting to know Rocky and I couldn’t take for granted that the audience doesn’t know him like I do. It was a challenge because the format naturally has a limit to the amount of information you can communicate about a character, so I had to do my best to condense Rocky and be selective about the most important aspects for this story. Rocky trusted me and so he was able to be himself which led to a lot of natural moments that helped to define who he truly is. Rocky didn’t see the film until final cut.
Heartland Film Festival: This is a film about one man’s interactions with an Indian AIDS orphanage and although there are plenty of heart-wrenching moments, there are so many scenes of joy and giddiness. Why was it important for you to show this aspect of this place as well as the grimmer reality?
Steve Hoover: I was taken back by how much joy I encountered and I wanted to show it accurately. Often times when places like this are depicted, the focus tends to land on the more challenging and depressing side of the subjects’ lives. Their situations are largely unfortunate, but it’s their reality. They weren’t wallowing in misery and asking me to feel sorry for them. They are living their lives, going to school, having friends, playing, studying and enjoying what they had. I was inspired and humbled. I went into the situation with a common western world view that if you don’t share my comforts, how can you possibly be happy? Basically, I found joy and pain, both are important parts of their reality. We were also very fortunate to have a victorious story. It very well could have ended tragically.
Heartland Film Festival: Are you working on a next project?
Steve Hoover: We just returned from a 20-day production in Ukraine for our next feature length documentary about a righteous vigilante named Gennady. The man is a powerhouse in his ex-Soviet city where he undertakes brazen rescue missions to help just about anybody. More to come in the future.
Heartland Film Festival: What are some moving films that have inspired you as a filmmaker?
Steve Hoover: I’m really inspired by character docs. Some films that I found inspiring through this process were American Movie, The King of Kong and Grizzly Man.
- Friday, October 18 at 1:45 a.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14**
- Friday, October 18 at 7:15 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14**
- Saturday, October 19 at 10:30 a.m. at AMC Traders Point 12**
- Sunday, October 20 at 5 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14
- Tuesday, October 22 at 6:45 p.m. at AMC Traders Point 12
- Wednesday, October 23 at 3 p.m. at AMC Castleton Square 14
- Thursday, October 24 at 7:45 p.m. at AMC Traders Point 12
- Friday, October 25 at 8:15 p.m. at Wheeler Arts Community
**Producer Danny Yourd is scheduled to attend the following screenings.