Benjamin Bratt Talks to Redbox About La Mission

by | Aug 10th, 2010 | 4:29PM | Filed under: Interviews, Movies

La Mission is an independent film produced by and starring Benjamin Bratt and written and directed by his brother Peter. Available now on DVD from redbox, it’s the story of Che (Bratt), a reformed convict, recovering alcoholic and “straight-up OG” who lives in San Francisco’s Mission District while raising his teenage son Jess (Jeremy Ray Valdez).

Che loves the classic low-rider cars he restores and cruises in on Friday nights and takes great pride in his Hispanic heritage and his Mission community. But Che’s true pride and joy is his son Jess, an honor student who’s about to graduate and head off to college. Unfortunately when Che finds out Jess is gay, he reacts violently, beating and throwing the young man out of his house.

Last month Bratt visited the redbox headquarters near Chicago to talk about La Mission. It’s clear in person how personally meaningful the film is to the actor—and even more evident on the screen, where he brings Che to rich, soulful life. The character feels authentic and honest, and Bratt’s trademark charm and charisma translates easily and naturally to Che’s street confidence.

The following is some of what the actor had to say to redbox about La Mission:

Benjamin Bratt, Peter Bratt, and Jeremy Ray ValdezOn the Film’s Cultural Roots and Broad Appeal

Bratt: Growing up in San Francisco and the Mission District had a deep influence on my life as a kid. My brother and I knew the film wasn’t a money-making venture, but we wanted to make something that was lasting, a hallmark for the community we come from. Peter is the architect of the movie, and he really understood this community and felt a responsibility to the authentic Latino culture. But now it’s really affirming to find there’s a wide and varied audience out there for it.

It’s a film about family, but it’s not a “family film.” People come and bring their cousins, grandma… but there’s a lotta F-bombs. The film really seems to be resonating with all people who see it. It’s about the Hispanic low-rider culture, but it plays well with Black, White, Hispanic, art-house audiences, and gay audiences.

The universality of the themes explored in the film resonate with human experience. It’s an art-house film with mainstream urban crossover appeal. It deals with the gay subculture, but some have referred to it as a heterosexual date movie because Che becomes romantically involved with his very liberal African-American neighbor, played by Erika Alexander. Plus there’s a lotta humor, beautiful cars, and a slamming soundtrack.

[At this point the film's co-producer Alpita Patel added that La Mission also features "Benjamin Bratt with his shirt off!"]

Low-riders have a wrongful misidentification with gang culture. It’s from the Mexican-American minority experience out of Texas where marginalized Mexican-American youth took throwaway Chevys and made them low and slow. It’s an original American art form. And if you’re a true low-rider, you gotta have music—R&B and soul oldies, not hip-hop and rap.

On Hollywood Roles for Latino Actors

Bratt: When it comes to roles for Latinos in film, the good news is things are improving. This country is in a place of transformation as we begin to understand this variety is what America is now. Since the late ‘80s we’ve been catching up, but we got a ways to go. Movies are still too often green-lit by middle-aged white men with a limited experience.

bratt missionOn Che and the Character’s Real-Life Inspiration

Bratt: In the movie Che is all hard angles and rough exterior. He’s like Charles Bronson or Rocky—he negotiates life using violence. But the film subverts your expectations—what really drives him is not violence but love for community, for family, and for his son. So La Mission is a coming-of-age story for the father, not the son. It’s Che’s redemptive path, not Jess’s. It’s about tolerance and acceptance.

Che is based on a real-life guy from the Mission District, a single father with a passion for low-rider cars. When my brother told him about the project, the real Che was like “Hell yeah, man—who’s gonna play me?” And when Peter said I would, Che said, “See? I gained a foot [in height] right there!”

The real Che was nervous about the gay son theme, asking “Why does he have to be gay? Why not a drug dealer or a murderer?” That really speaks to the homophobia in the Latino community—that a drug dealer or murderer son is preferable to a gay son. No one talks about it.

But the first time Che saw the film, when it was over he walked out right at the end without saying anything. My brother thought, “Oh no, he hates it, he’s really angry.” Later Che told Peter, “I had to get out of there, man. I was gonna start crying like a little bitch.”

La Mission is on DVD and available for rental from redbox.

9 Responses to “Benjamin Bratt Talks to Redbox About La Mission

  1. caressa
    Posted on August 10, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    i can’t wait to see it!

  2. Sandra Dee
    Posted on August 11, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Can’t wait to see this film … have been a huge fan of Benjamin Bratt … and this character seems to resonate a bit of his character in Blood In Blood Out … at least the from the low rider aspect …

  3. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on August 11, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Sandra, during his talk with us Bratt actually mentioned Blood in Blood Out–the 1993 Taylor Hackford film (also known as Bound by Honor). He praised it for depicting the Hispanic community and focusing on the neighborhood, noting that we need more films that present “an authentic representation of what exists, in all its ugliness and beauty.”

  4. Elaine Coronado
    Posted on August 14, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    I just saw this movie and loved it. I was born and raised in San Francisco and enjoyed seeing the city. I used to walk from my home in Noe Valley to the Mission District to see movies. So sad the New Mission and other theaters are now closed.

    I loved all the characters in this movie and the story held my interest. I also used to frequent the Castro theater with my husband. I thought Benjamin was terrific and all the other actors were convincing in their roles.

    I also attended Mission High School and was excited to see the inside of the school as well. It sure brought back old memories. I used to dream of trying to find my graduating class photo on the walls. I got a climpse of some in one scene.

    I really loved this movie and plan on seeing it again with my husband. We love San Francisco and how you captured the city in this movie.

  5. Xrayn martinez
    Posted on August 23, 2010 at 4:13 am

    One of the greatest movies ive seen all year.its even more inspiring to know that its an independent film made by 2 brothers.they did a awesome job putting this film is much appreciated by myself an i can imagine by 100s of others.would of been so cool just to have been a stand in a scene. Low & slow que no! X

  6. chris pauley
    Posted on August 29, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    A very good film !…Real insight into that neighborhood. The timing of each scene was art !. I’m sad about the homophobic aspect of hispanic culture. Macho is more negative than positive…but it’s difficult to critize a culture one was not brought up in…loved the interior room scenes and the art-on-the walls.

    • Currently 3/5 Stars
    Posted on October 13, 2010 at 9:48 am

    This was an okay movie. It dragged on a bit, but I think they did portray the hispanic culture in its true to life form. I just wish there was a little more substance to it, and the ending was really vague. Actors/Actresses did a great job though!

  7. lorenz
    Posted on November 10, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    benjamin Bratt is the $#!+. Hells yeah