The Power of La Mission
April 23, 2010
By Sherehe Hollins
La Mission is a story of self-transformation that through colorful imagery and heartfelt storytelling illustrates the transcendent power of acceptance. Set in San Francisco’s Mission District Che Rivera (Benjamin Bratt) embodies the rigid attitudes of his patriarchal society. Revered for his masculinity and strength, Che has learned to negotiate power through force and physical violence.
A man, accustomed to the rules of the streets, Che is a reformed inmate, and recovering alcoholic, who has worked hard to redeem his life. Employed as a Muni Bus Driver, Che devotes his time to his hobby, building lowrider cars, and being a single parent to his 18-year old son, Jess.
His efforts to do right by his son are jeopardized when Che discovers that Jess is gay. Outraged, Che beats and disowns his son, losing Jess, and himself in the process. Change does not come easy, for a man set in his ways. However Che must begin his journey towards self-transformation or risk losing the love of his son.
For writer, director and producer Peter Bratt, La Mission was inspired by his desire to address “the presence of violence in our daily lives and our almost unconscious acceptance of it.” The character Che became the means through which these ideas could be explored.
Born and raised in the Mission District, Bratt drew upon his memory and knowledge of the vibrant community that left its imprint on how the Bratt Brothers perceive the world. Bratt acknowledges the film, in part, as a “love letter to a uniquely American neighborhood.” Even the main character was modeled after a neighborhood friend, named Che.
Like the on screen character, Che was a member of one of the first lowrider clubs in the Mission. The main difference between the real Che and the on screen character is that the real Che does not have a gay son, a theme which initially made Che very uncomfortable and doubt whether he wanted to lend his story to the film.
Eventually giving Peter Bratt his blessing, Che served as the lowrider consultant during film production. A touching anecdote that demonstrates the very real and transformative power of the film is that upon viewing La Mission for the first time Che was not only moved to tears, he admitted the film changed the way he sees the “gay issue.”
La Mission is a film that creatively and skillfully addresses controversial issues that impact, and at times divide communities. Benjamin Bratt commented that “Peter (Bratt) wrote a story whose main character must struggle to unlearn a lifetime of destructive habits, and in doing so, makes a greater point: violence does not have to be a necessary outcome of troubling circumstances, whatever they may be.”
La Mission opens in San Diego on April 30th at the Landmark Cinema in Hillcrest and the AMC Palm Promenade. For more information on the film visit: www.lamissionthemovie.com/