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Laramie Movie Scope:
La Mission

Chicano culture and conflict in the Mission District

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 27, 2010 -- This is one of those “labor of love” type of movie projects that don't get done without a lot of dedication or support from somebody with some clout in the movie business. It is a movie that shows pride in the Chicano culture and has a firm sense of place. In this case, the place is San Francisco's Mission District. A rich culture is on display in the film and it has one of the best musical soundtracks of 2010 with its unique musical score and a mix of golden oldie tunes. Also on display are some fantastic low-rider cars, real works of art.

Benjamin Bratt (“Trucker”) plays Che Rivera, a tough and respected member of the Mission District. He's an ex-con, recovering alcoholic and the single parent father of Jes (played by Jeremy Ray Valdez), who is easily cruising through high school on his way to college. Che drives a city bus and likes to build custom low-rider cars. Che has his life together and things are going along fine until one day he finds out that Jes is gay. This, he cannot tolerate, he tells his son “You are dead to me” and throws him out of the house. Of course Che also loves his son, and so tries to reconcile with him. A process that is very halting and slow. He very intolerant of his son's sexual preference.

At the same time, Che, whose wife died long ago, is attracted to a new neighbor, Lena (Erika Alexander of “Deja Vu”). Lena, who is very kind, helps Che out when some people from the neighborhood paint hateful words about Jes on his Che's garage. Lena is attracted to Che, especially his artistic qualities and his love for his son, but his violent temper puts her off, especially after Che and Jes have a big fist fight. Che's relationship with Lena turns out to be as difficult as his relationship with Jes. Che must work through a lot of anger before he can make either of these important relationships work. Deeply troubled, Che starts drinking again, and that makes everything that much harder for him, Lena and Jes.

This film was made on a small budget, but it looks good thanks to some great-looking low-rider cars (each car has its own credit in the film) and location shots. Che builds a car for his son as a graduation present. A number of beautiful cars are on display in this film, which was filmed on location in the Mission District. There are Aztec dances and rituals, including healing ceremonies in the film. There is a lot of Chicano pride on display in this film. Some of the dialog in the film is Spanish, with a number of slang terms in both English and Spanish, like “O.G.” which apparently means original gangster. The film also sounds great with a unique musical score composed by South African musician Mark Kilian (“Rendition”). The soundtrack features Indian music, Latin music and a lot of classic songs from the Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye, The Stylistics, Curtis Mayfield and other artists. The film was written and directed by Peter Bratt (Benjamin Bratt's brother). This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2010 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)