*Benjamin Bratt and his brother Peter Bratt sat down recently to discuss their latest venture, “La Mission.” The film stars Benjamin and the stunning and talented Erika Alexander as his love interest. Talisha Soto Bratt, Ben’s beautiful, wife has a small role in the movie.
La Mission is a Latino community in San Francisco and audiences get a chance to see low ridding at its best and hear some classic R&B as the inhabitants’ lives explode on the screen. As writer and director of “La Mission,” Peter wanted to explore ideas of violence, power and masculinity in communities of color. “We’re hometown boys from San Francisco,” he explains, “and we always wanted to make a film in The Mission district.
“A perfect example, we thought, was this brother we know named Che, who we consider family. He drives a mini bus, he’s tattooed out, has a past, was a single father, and he’s a brown, proud Chicano just like the character in the film.” Ben interject with, “He was one of the first to establish a Low Riders clubs in San Francisco back in the day.” “He’s a true to the bone OG Low Rider,” Peter adds. “He only listens to certain kinds of music, dresses in certain kinds of clothing. He was actually a consultant on the film and really gave us direction in terms of the music and the cars.
“Benjamin and I consider ourselves members of the Mission community,” Peter says, “so we really wanted to weave a thread of authenticity throughout the movie, have real young people that speak in a way that’s representative of them. As filmmakers, part of our mission is to empower our people to tell the stories. So we tried to get as many people behind the camera as in front of the camera from the community as possible.”…
Playing the devil’s advocate, I asked Benjamin and Peter if the gay storyline was a ploy to appeal to another segment of the population since seemingly every movie and TV show has a gay character? “I think that we see the film for what it is, which is ultimately a meditation on violence,” Benjamin responded. “The gay theme or the gay element is really a catalyst that sets the Che character onto a very introspective path. He’s a man who negotiates life through violence and always has and on some levels he is respected for it-and certainly feared for it.
“But when Che is confronted with the possibility of losing the thing he cherishes most, which is the relationship with his son, he is forced to open his heart.” “I think that is a really important question that you asked,” Peter tells me, “because homophobia is looked upon differently in communities of color, at least in The Mission.
“We’re dealing with substance abuse, domestic violence, rape, high rates of homicide, and extreme homophobia. I think that the son’s sexuality certainly is one of the threats to this alpha male, that Benjamin portrays in the film. His son is now a woman, a pussy or a bitch or how ever you wanna call it.”
In “Our Family Wedding,” which opened a couple of weeks ago, a black man (Lance Gross) and a Mexican woman (America Ferrera) get married. Ironically, in “La Mission,” Benjamin has a love affair with Erika Alexander (Lena), and according to Peter, it’s was crucial part in the movie. “It had to be a woman who was an outsider who wasn’t from Che’s world. Yet, she could understand who he was, in a sense. The African American community has similar issues to that of Che’s world. Lena was of that class or ilk whose experience punctuated her behavior. So even though she might not have condoned some of Che’s behavior, she was familiar with his type.
Erika’s audition stood out above the other actresses, Benjamin says, because of her aura. “Erika was very elusive. There was something mysterious about her and you couldn’t put your finger on it. It was almost like she couldn’t wait to get out of the room, which we found both odd and attractive at the same time. Maybe it’s the hunt, I don’t know what it is [laughs], but she nailed the part. She was all business and then she wanted to leave and Peter’s argument in support of hiring her was that, ‘that’s Lena,’ you know. She’s a bit of a mystery. She’s someone who has survived the adversity that exists within the communities that we’ve just spoken about. She’s a survivor. She’s an actualized woman who knows how to stand up for herself.”
The Bratt brothers are very excited about “La Mission” and their mission is clear. Peter’s a provocateur, and a subtle one at that, Benjamin says. “If you really look at the film in depth, it cover a lot of issues. It opens up so many issues without beating you over the head and it leaves you pondering things that we’re already aware of, but maybe just on a subconscious level. Hopefully, it will ultimately sparks a conversation, which is a starting point, and maybe some of the social ills we face will be mitigated.”