The stories of our lives start at home. Most of us share fond and sometimes turbulent stories with friends and relatives which stay with us. They mold us to whom we are, and where we will go in life. As a Motion Picture Director, Peter Bratt decided he wanted to share his life experiences and if you have a brother, that happens to be a Mega Movie Star too, why not have your Carnal help you share your dream. Benjamin and Peter Bratt grew up in the Mission District in San Francisco California. The story they now share in a major motion picture which has a few characters we all know or know of in our own lives.
La Mission, Character Che Rivera (Benjamin Bratt) has always had to be tough to survive. He’s a powerful man respected throughout the Mission Barrio for his masculinity and his strength, as well as for his building of beautiful Lowrider cars. At the same time, he’s also a man feared for his street tough ways and violent temper. A reformed inmate and recovering alcoholic, Che has worked hard to redeem his life and do right by his pride and joy; his only son, Jes, whom he has raised on his own after the death of his wife. Che’s path to redemption is tested, however, when he discovers Jes is gay. In a rage, Che violently beats Jes, disowning him. He loses his son – and looses himself in the process. Isolated and alone, Che comes to realize his parental pride is meaningless to him, and to maintain his idea of masculinity, he’s sacrificed the one thing that he cherishes the most… the love of his son.
To survive his neighborhood, Che has always used his fists. To survive as a complete man, he’ll have to embrace a side of himself he’s never shown. The story shows that we all must become a complete human being to succeed in life.
During the premier screening of the Movie, I was privileged in interviewing Peter and Benjamin Bratt and saw firsthand, these two Latino Brothers from Northern Califas, blessed with success in front and behind the camera, are extremely proud of their heritage and culture we all share as Latino’s. But it is made clear, you don’t need to be Latino to appreciate this story, the foundation, which is love for your family, is prolific in any culture.
LRM: Thank you both for this opportunity to discuss the Movie “La Mission”. In seeing the film, it was great seeing the Lowrider lifestyle on the big screen and seeing our favorite actors playing the good guys, instead of how sometimes Hollywood portrays Lowriders in a negative way. It was enlightening.
As a Lowrider, I am interested in seeing the movie succeed in giving a glimpse of the Lowrider lifestyle to the rest of the Country. But I understand this is from personal experiences, as Brothers growing up the San Francisco Mission District, did you experience or witness the Lowrider lifestyle first hand, or how did this come to be?
Peter Bratt: When we were young teens, you could see the Lowrider Trains (caravans) as far as the eye could see on Mission Street. There were events on the weekends, they were incredible times and celebrations, young people just having fun. We remember those years. We never got into the rides, because all the Lowriders and Homies were cruising their ladies. We’d be standing on the corner wishing we could be in the rides. That was actually part of the excitement though, with people who filled the street just watching the parade of Lowriders going up and down, listening to the music. Back then of course the City put in some ordinances on the street which basically outlawed Lowriding and the Lowrider trains. One of the guys we went to school with… Che, he started one of the first Lowrider Car Clubs in the Mission District during that era and was a guy we looked up to. He is what you referred to as an authentic OG Lowrider Cat. He lives the whole aesthetic. It’s a lifestyle; you know right down to the Stacy Adam Shoes, the 1940’s pleated trousers, and Pendleton.
LRM: Benjamin’s Character Che, is what Lowriders consider the Veterano who grew up in the neighborhood or Barrio. I believe you picked up the true essence of this character very well. I know you elaborated in a few interviews, on who this tough guy really was, but what I really appreciate is the way you caught it. It was the real deal, it was the whole package…he was a tough guy, but at the same time he matured as a human being at the end of the movie. It was a good feeling to see this on the big screen instead of the negative stereotype.
Benjamin Bratt: I am so glad you got that complexity. As you already mentioned, what we know of in terms of Hollywood fare, when it has any kind of story that’s Latino centric, it is typically done stereo typical or in one dimensional form. It doesn’t really capture the sophistication and complexity of what really exists within our communities. Of course we understand our communities are different from place to place, and yet, always at the center of them is what unifies us all is the heart that exists. The passion for life, the pride and the culture. So that was an important part of and aspect for Peter and I to capture that essence by creating a character like Che, my brother created someone recognizable in that he is brown to the bone, he is puro macho, and on some level, rigid and immoveable, but at the same time, he’s got heart. He’s got most obviously, love for his community, his culture, and of course for his boy. As that regards to the Lowrider culture, he’s a veteran to the core, it was important to us as we learned, in researching for the film, that Lowrider culture in general gets a bad rap in being gang affiliated. We discovered by not only talking to the real life Che, but other Lowrider Car Clubs in the Bay area that this very much has evolved into a family affair. First of all, the Lowrider phenomenon emerged out of the Mexican-American experience in the 1940’s. It was almost a political counterpoint of what wealthy white boys were doing with jacking up their cars and going fast. Dropping it low and going slow was the opposite counterpoint to that. Now Lowriding is seen as an original American art form and you now have a Lowrider on permanent display at the Smithsonian Museum. So we wanted to capture that aspect of the beauty, the cultural pride, and the fellow ship that really evolved out of the Lowrider culture now a days.
LRM: I believe you got it and I am glad to see the awareness of this motorsport stem from tradition, culture, and art. It is now more evident as Lowrider Art Shows are being produced at the Mesa and Phoenix Art Museums. America is finally recognizing this as true art. The public has seen firsthand Lowrider art going from the back streets to the Main Streets. Now that you have introduced the Lowrider culture in a different or positive light, do you feel we will better be accepted throughout America?
Peter Bratt: I think that perception is changing. Again, we grew up with a lot of guys who were Lowriders, who eventfully became veteranos, but I didn’t take my first Lowrider ride till I was in my early Thirties. Like the real life Che, I’ve known him since we were kids. Even though he’s had his difficulties and struggles, what I’ve always admired about him most was his dignity that he gives to the Lowrider culture.
LRM: As a Lowrider myself, I saw the small details that you inserted in the movie like the ceremonial ironing of the cruising apparel, the Brim and shoes. In the garage, the posters, old magazines, even hopping sticks and of course the car club plaque being flown on the ride ready for the Boulevard. Were these small details from your memories?
Benjamin and Peter Bratt: We hung around these cats and Che was also used as a consultant for the project. But this is not unique to the Mission District in that sometimes with the newer Lowriders who listen to the rap, and the hip hop culture has influenced their lives, they sometimes lose touch of the roots of the OG Lowrider culture. Take Che, he can also break down Mayan History, as well as the Aztec culture. He knows a lot about that kind of thing and see’s the Lowrider culture as part of that experience. He’s very proud of that indigenize side of it and also old enough that growing up in the sixties, Latinos and Brown people really had to take a stand on who they really were. And so there is a lot of that political activism with Veteranos that you don’t see of today with the youth culture.
LRM: You brought that into play just a little bit in a scene with the Chicanito playing his rap music, and Che put him straight in what real music was to Che and his Character.
Peter Bratt: This is one reason we came to Phoenix for the movie premier, because of the whole debate going on with the new SB 1070 Law, they can pull you over and card you for being Brown. In recognizing that indigenous connection many Mexicanos have. I believe it is time that Latino’s flex their political muscle and get out and vote.
In closing, the interview with the Bratt Brothers made it clear to me these two individuals are not only proud of their heritage and roots, they are cut from the same cloth many of us are from. While in Phoenix during the movie premiere, Benjamin and Peter had a special guest with them. Dolores Huerta, Co-Founder of the Cesar Chavez Farm Workers Organization. They are working with The Cesar Chavez Foundation to help educate people and get them to get politically active and vote. Becoming active now will help ensure a positive future for our children with the decisions made today.
From Writer/Director Peter Bratt comes La Mission, a 5 Stick Films Inc. and TomKat Films Production. Produced by Benjamin Bratt, Peter Bratt, and Alpita Patel and Executive Produced by Tom Steyer, Kat Taylor, and Dan Nelson. La Mission stars Benjamin Bratt, Erika Alexander, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Jesse Borrego, and Talisa Soto Bratt. Supporting cast includes Kevin Michael Richardson, Patrick D. Shinning-Elk, Rene A. Quinonez, Ruben Gonzalez, and Mark Rosenak.