“La Mission” comes to SF

16 04 2010

First and foremost, full discretion, I grew up in the Mission … on 24th and Alabama to be exact … so I have a lot of emotional ties to this place. I’m sure it made me enjoy the film more than most. That said, it’s still a great film and if you’re like me, you have to see it. 

Shout out to Karen Larsen for setting up the interview with Peter Bratt — scroll down and you’ll find a jpeg of the page that ran in today’s edition of the Daily Journal. You can also read the story here. Enjoy. Hopefully.

Mission accomplished
By Julio Lara Daily Journal Staff
For brothers Benjamin and Peter Bratt, the journey back home has been a long one with stops in New York, Los Angeles, The View, The George Lopez show and everywhere in between all in an effort to promote a true labor of love.

Yet despite the time, a span that has lasted almost two years, the truth remains it’s never too late to come back home.

In many ways, tonight will be the biggest night for Director Peter Bratt and his movie “La Mission” which has been tearing through the festival circuit and was picked up for a 25-theater release in the United States. April 9 saw the film premiere in New York and tonight it will open in Northern California, bringing with it a story with which many San Francisco natives can connect.

“La Mission” is a film shot in the San Francisco district that bears its name. It captures the sights, the sounds and the feel of a neighborhood known more for its violence than its beautiful character. In “La Mission,” Peter Bratt has managed to shine the light on other aspects of the Mission culture that make it one of the most fascinating places in the Bay Area while not backing down from the issues that also make it one of the most troubling.

Having grown up in San Francisco, the task to bring a genuine depiction of the Mission wasn’t an easy one especially when you consider that tonight, those who grew up in that neighborhood will give Peter Bratt the review that matters the most — that of the people whose lives are being shown on the big screen.

In a lot of ways, those are the critics Peter Bratt is most nervous about.

“You can’t help but feel that the stakes are a little higher and go a little deeper because it’s the home town,” Bratt said. “We look at ‘La Mission’ as a love letter of sorts, now the people who the love letter was written for get to see it.”

A labor of love, a love letter, a snapshot of the neighborhood, “La Mission is a lot of things.

As a film, the picture is the story of Che Rivera, an ex-convict/“cholo” who grew up to become a MUNI driver and father of a young man, Jes. A lot of who Rivera is is rooted in the past and he is a product of the rough and gritty neighborhood of la Mission. 

Rivera is played by Benjamin Bratt, known for his roles on “Law and Order,” “Miss Congeniality” and most recently “The Cleaner.”

Having found a place of comfort in his life, Rivera is forced to confront his inner demons when he discovers that his son is gay. That scenario is the backdrop for a powerful story of reinvention — of having to remake yourself all in the name of love.

Fans of the film have been drawn by Peter’s ability to take a taboo subject in Latin American culture and force the audience to take the journey with Rivera and confront their own views of the subject. 

“I never got stuck on the notion that it might be risky,” Peter said about choosing to do a story about a Hispanic gay man. “For me as a screenwriter I just thought it was great drama. What’s amazing to me is how powerful the cultural taboo remains in so many communities like the Mission — communities where coming out often means being cut off from your family, your community and culture as well.”

As a love letter and snapshot, the film is magnificent. Peter along with Hiro Narita (director of photography) do a marvelous job of bringing the Mission to life. It’s not just the streets and all their flare, but the sounds, the language and the lifestyle that form an emotional vacuum with those who have witnessed the neighborhood firsthand.

“We didn’t set out to film the definite Mission story,” Peter said, “or the definite Latino story. (But) there is a sense of pride,” he said, adding that involving members of the community allowed the people of the Mission to have a stake in the process.

As a labor of love, “La Mission” has given the term a new definition. Backed by a small budget and a crammed shooting schedule, the Bratts have taken on the task of taking their film and pushing forward with their dream of having viewers experience it. 

For the last couple of years, they’ve taken it to numerous film festivals (Sundance, Cinequest, Palm Springs International, Goteborg), logging miles and miles in the challenging circuit. But backed by word of mouth, hard work and avenues like Facebook (of which the film has over 14,000 fans) “La Mission” has created a following large enough to spawn a wider release.

“Just the fact that we made it to Los Angeles and New York and are now opening in San Francisco, Sacramento and Santa Cruz, it’s a huge victory,” Peter said. 

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One response

16 04 2010
Roberto

Good story kid! I am really enthusiastic about watching this film. Growing up on 24th and Alabama as well, i must say that I am proud that such films are being made. Thank you for your review Julio Lara.

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