A man transformed

A Benjamin Bratt film exploring issues of family and sexuality in the Latino community will be screened next month in Nashville.

La Mission, starring Benjamin Bratt and directed by his brother Peter, is a film about a gay Latino teenager in San Francisco's Mission district. The teenager's father, played by Benjamin Bratt, is loving and somewhat open-minded but has a history of violence. He disowns his son when he finds out that he's gay, and the movie is spent exploring issues of sexuality, violence, race, culture, class, tradition.

Peter Bratt speaks with Out & About Newspaper to discuss the inspiration behind this excellent new film to be screened at Belcourt Theatre on Sunday, Apr. 10.

Have you ever visited Nashville?

I've never been to Nashville and I'm really looking forward to it. I believe I come in on the 8th and leave the 11th.

Any particular place you want to see?

I'll have to go and read a couple guide books to help. I just know that it's a big music town. I can't wait.

Tell me about the inspiration behind this film.

There are several strands of inspiration. My brother and I had wanted to do a film in the Mission district. We dreamed of making a film in our hometown and setting a story in our neighborhood. We started tossing around ideas and we were talking about story and characters. One of the ideas that came up was there was a kid Jay that I went to school with who ended up as the template of Benjamin's character. He's a Chicano; he's a lot like the guy in the film. When films focus on Latinos or men of color, especially in urban setting, the conflict is centered on an uptown view with a climactic, violent ending. Here there's this single father of three, a phenomenal father who loved his children. One of the greatest challenges for somebody who's full of machismo, a prideful and respected man...to give him the ultimate challenge would be to make his only son be gay. It's something he can't shoot or punch his way out of. So it's not really a coming out story. It's about him coming to terms with something completely out of his hands.

What was it like working with your brother in a professional setting?

Benjamin and I are not only brothers but best friends. Making an independent film is definitely the hardest and most challenging thing. We're from this community and we know a lot of people in the neighborhood. People we grew up with worked with us on the set. Even though it was intense, even when we were filmed scenes, I think for the most part it was kind of a celebratory atmospher. I think a lot of people in the community feel marginalized. To have them be at the forefront, there was some sort of brown pride, so to speak.

What I think is interesting, at least what I heard from members of the white gay community, is how somebody looked at (these people) as a minority. The coming out process brings up a lot of conflicts. When I was interviewing a lot of LGBT youth of color, it was interesting. Castro district, which is really the gay mecca, is right next door to the Mission district, but they are universes apart. When they would go to the Castro, there would sometimes be overt or even subtle forms of racism. They didn't feel like they completely belonged and they were experiencing rejection from their own families. The film kind of shows the struggles that a young Latino man has.

How do you think gay rights are progressing in this country?

I think it's a case of two steps forward, one step back. The whole subject of gay marriage is divisive in this country. Politically you have the surge of right wing people from certain corners of the country. But I think young people years from now will look back on the subject and say "What were we debating?"

Wouldn't you say it's crucial to tell these stories about minority populations?

That's one of the reasons I got into film. There are so many stories that haven't made it to the mainstream. When we were constructing this protagonist, we showed this arc of transformation in Benjamin's character when he discovers his son is gay. It's like a catalyst. Sometimes changes happens to us. So it explores his homophobia and what it means to be a male and to have power (in society).


The two screenings of the film are co-presented by Oasis Youth Opportunity Center, the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce, PFLAG Nashville, and Vanderbilt University’s Office of LGBTQI Life. Free admission.

Residency Event: Saturday, April 9, 2-5 p.m. (Location: Oasis Youth Opportunity Center, 1704 Charlotte Ave, Ste. 200, 37203)

Attendees will participate in a discussion featuring Peter Bratt. Pam Sheffer, program coordinator for LGBT Youth Services at Oasis, will moderate the youth- and family-oriented discussion.

Belcourt Theatre Screening: Sunday, April 10, 7 p.m.

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