When the 2004 tsunami hit the coast of Sri Lanka, 65-year-old Anton Ambrose's wife and daughter were killed. "In five minutes," he says, "I lost everything."
A year later, Anton returns to Sri Lanka. With him is his nephew, award-winning filmmaker Rohan Fernando.
A Tamil, Anton moved to California in the 1970s and became a very successful gynecologist. His daughter, Orlantha, made the opposite journey, returning to Sri Lanka where she ran a non-profit group that gave underprivileged children free violin lessons. Anton and his wife, Beulah, were visiting her when the tsunami hit.
Blood and Water is the story of one man's search for meaning in the face of overwhelming loss, but it is also filled with improbable characters, unintentional comedy and situational ironies.
To honour Orlantha's work, Anton is building a music centre and hosting a fundraising concert. Eccentric characters and oddball events immediately take centre stage. Exiled Iranian country singer Ann Claire is focused on media attention as much as on the concert. Shondale, an energetic African American computer analyst, is so moved by Orlantha's story that she drops everything to become the concert's chief organizer. The concert itself loses money, although - in a final irony - some of the underprivileged children it is designed to serve come from among the richest families in the country.
Meanwhile, Anton tours his old neighbourhood, spends time with his daughter's closest friends and seeks out advice from the archbishop of Sri Lanka. ("That's life!" the archbishop says, when Anton describes his loss.)
All this against the backdrop of Sri Lanka - a country coming apart as the decades-old civil war between Tamil Tigers and the government heats up.
Ultimately, Blood and Water is a film about the coming to terms with loss. As Anton Ambrose seeks meaning in tragedy, he must re-evaluate all he has taken for granted. In so doing, he comes to understand his daughter better than he ever did when she was alive.
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Blood and Water, Rohan Fernando, provided by the National Film Board of Canada