Written and Directed by Peter Bratt and starring Peter’s brother, Benjamin Bratt, “La Mission” tells the story of Che Rivera, a MUNI bus driver, former inmate and recovering alcoholic, who builds low rider cars. Che loves his son, Jes, an academic achiever he has raised on his own. Then he finds out Jes is gay, and love turns into disgust. He beats his son up and throws him out of the house.
The film also explores the low rider culture dispelling myths that its cultural inhabitants are criminals or gang related but, actually come together on the weekends and share a solid comraderie for their cars, dress, Spanglish and leisure time. They drive in a procession with no particular destination on the weekends showing off their prized possessions while always keeping it ‘low and slow’. Additionally, the film makes the Mission District another character referring to Aztlan, the lands of Northern Mexico that were annexed by the United States as a result of the Mexican-American War. Che embodies many of the sacred cultural attributes of the Mexican culture like Catholicism and a dedication to keeping his mother’s spirit alive. Finally, there are images of Native American culture displayed along the streets of the Mission re-interpreted through large graffiti murals and indigenous dancers performing various ceremonies. The colorful costumes and tribal beats inflect a haunting underbelly of ancestors kept alive as reminders of our past and the depths of the spirit world.
Peter and Benjamin have wanted to collaborate for many years on a film about the Mission District, the area that they call home. Peter has written a compelling story that is believable, touching and stays true to the realities of this particular neighborhood. He exposes a side of the Latin community that puts family first however, can sometimes alienate and display intolerance for a particular lifestyle. The outwardly strong and machismo male that is predominant in many Latin families is exposed in the film to the weaknesses of brutality and intolerance. The sensitive nature of the film could not have been possible without extensive experience with the culture and the neighborhood. Major kudos go to the casting of the film with Benjamin leading the pack as Che Rivera. Other notable actors include Jesse, Che’s son played with conflicted emotions by Jeremy Ray Valdez. Erika Alexander is Lena and offers a feminine outsider perspective to the neighborhood and culture but, shines her own slivers of vulnerability to the film.
Beautifully shot by Hiro Narita combined with an exquisite film score by Mark Kilian, “La Mission” is a modern day cultural look at family, culture and the ironic secrets that often threaten the traditional family.
“La Mission” is currently playing in selected theaters including New York (Clearview Chelsea), San Francisco (Sundance Kabuki and AMC Loews Metreon 16) and Los Angeles (Laemmle’s Sunset 5 and Edwards South Gate Stadium 20).
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