Entertainment » Movies

Bratt brothers shine light on homophobia with ’La Mission’

by Roger Brigham
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Apr 14, 2010

When Peter Bratt decided to write a movie focused on the apprehension a young Hispanic man growing up in San Francisco's Mission District would have about telling his father he was gay, he did not have to look far for inspiration.

"We had a family member who was mugged -- knifed in the back of the head," Bratt told EDGE during a promotional appearance in advance of the theatrical release of La Mission, the indie film he wrote and directed.

"His father originally rejected him, wanted him out of the house. Now he's his (son's) biggest supporter and they're both going to the movie."

The drama revolves around a San Francisco bus driver's violent hostility when he learns his son is gay and his subsequent struggle to accept the teenager's sexual orientation.

The film, which drew critical praise at film festivals last year, opened in New York and Los Angeles last week and comes to San Francisco this Friday (April 16). It features the director's brother, television and film actor Benjamin Bratt, who plays the bus driver Che. (Bratt is best-known for his role on the hit television series Law and Order.)

The brothers, who grew up in the Mission in the '60s and '70s, consider the film a labor of love for the neighborhood they shaped them.

Specifically it was the gentrification of the Mission, particularly the influx of gay residents around Dolores Park, that became a flashpoint for homophobic violence while the brothers were growing up. The Mission they portray decades later is one in which neighborhood ethnic identities continue to erode and the proliferation of street weapons mark what Benjamin referred to as "an almost unconscious acceptance of violence."

"They stakes are much higher now," he said. "There were times when we were growing up when we would leave the doors unlocked. There were cultural collisions and you might settle things with fists, but there wasn't so much gunplay then, or knives. The violence today is much more lethal."

The brothers made filming the movie a real neighborhood affair.

"There was a block-party feel to it, which is really rare," Benjamin said. "I think most of the time San Francisco has been used just as backdrop. Nobody wanted to shine a light on the Mission."

Watch this interview with Peter and Benjamin Bratt when the film was shown at Sundance in 2009:

Roger Brigham, a freelance writer and communications consultant, is the San Francisco Editor of EDGE. He lives in Oakland with his husband, Eduardo.


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