Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Benjamin and Peter Bratt: La MISSION

The companion to hope, "change" is perhaps the most over-used and under-executed words in the common vernacular today. With their movie, La MISSION, actor Benjamin Bratt (who is best known for playing Detective Rey Curtis in the NBC drama Law & Order) and his writer/director brother Peter (who previously collaborated with his famous sibling on the 1996 film Follow Me Home) explore the motivations that might transform change from an abstract concept into tangible social movement in the forward direction on an individual level.

Human beings, by their very nature, resist change. This innate intransigence is often only overcome when the consequences of maintaining the status quo are significantly more painful than personal growth and transformation. In La MISSION, the central character finds himself at such a crossroads.

Che is a tough walking and talking Latino man who has secured the position he enjoys within his local community thanks to his testosterone-charged social skills, which are prized among his peers. However, Che is himself a victim of cultural stereotypes which dictate what a man should be, and unless he can reconcile his outdated ideas of masculinity and overcome the homophobia that to this day is a very real part of his culture, he risks losing the one thing that is most important to him - his son, Jes, whom he finds out is homosexual in the film's opening act.

The story was inspired by two characters in the Bratt brothers' life: Che is based on an older schoolmate and natural born leader whom Benjamin and Peter looked up to as kids (though the real-life Che has two sons, neither of which are gay), while Jes' journey echoes that of a family member who experienced a similar struggle for acceptance when his father discovered he was gay. But the family roots in La MISSION go even deeper. The film is set in the San Francisco neighborhood in which the brothers were raised, and its underlying message of hope and transformation is a testament to the convictions of Peter and Benjamin's activist mother, Elda Bratt, who participated in the Native American occupation of Alcatraz in 1969 (with her two young children in tow).

Though the subject matter of La MISSION may seem a little earnest for some, the underlying issues are handled in a sophisticated and subtle manner, which belies the power of the film. Politics take a backseat, as the viewer is immersed in the colorful lowriding culture Che reveres, and the very personal issues which father and son are fighting to overcome. Heartfelt and touching, La MISSION is all that independent filmmaking should be.

I spoke with Peter and Benjamin to find out more about La MISSION, and their wider calling to inspire and enact change through the ancient art of storytelling and their shared passion for film.

Read the full interview with Benjamin and Peter Bratt at

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