Monday, April 12, 2010

La Mission… Is Our Reality

La Mission… Is Our Reality

What is a dream if not for the realization that it’s achievable? And what reality is worth living in if all dreams are broken before ever having had the opportunity to manifest themselves into veracity?

One of my newest friends, Michael Holman, recently told me that the lie is that we’re lazy… the truth is that our dreams are often shattered leaving our spirits completely broken. This in turn leaves us in a state of hopelessness, a state many mistakenly perceive as laziness.

Over five years ago I decided to actively chase my own dream of becoming a published author.

But with no formal education as a writer and no connections to the publishing world I had no idea how I’d see this dream through to fruition…

Nevertheless, when the stories I fought so hard to share with the world made me the first Puerto Rican from the Bronx to sign a major publishing deal for a memoir… I realized that it was destiny dictating the importance of documenting where I came from.

It was destiny that ensured that if I ran hard and fast enough, I’d eventually catch up to my dreams and meet them up close and personal.

And to this day I continue to be gifted, not financially, but spiritually though networking encounters with others who’ve run just as hard to make their dreams their realities.

This past Friday (04/09/2010) was no exception when my friend Kay Shaw, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the National Black Programming Consortium, invited me to meet her good friend Peter Bratt and watch his powerful film, La Mission, starring his brother Benjamin Bratt.

I was elated because it was one of three films I really wanted to see last year at the New York International Latino Film Festival. But time wasn’t on my side back then and I wasn’t able to make the screenings.

Truth be told… I wasn’t supposed to see the film at that time. Because with all I was going through personally as a result of my relocation back to Bronx to save the hood, I don’t think I could’ve handled the depth of emotion I felt when I finally watched it the other night.

As it was, I almost walked out of the theater twice because of the emotional exercise the film was running me through.

La Mission, a film about the Mission District of San Francisco where Peter and Benjamin grew up, so intelligently deals with many of the issues minorities face on a daily basis. The only word I could use to describe it would be genius.

It’s simply and without question… a work of Genius!

During the Q&A after the film, Peter Bratt spoke bluntly when he mentioned that some people have asked him why he chose to tackle so many issues in one film. His answer revolved around the fact that many minority families deal with all of these issues on a daily basis.

At dinner later that night one of my first questions to Peter was, “How did you get so much content into two hours in such a seamless manner?”

And then I probably hit him in rapid fire succession with questions about the way he addressed homophobia, Latino machismo, black and brown relationships, a single father trying to raise his only son, a neighborhood that has issues with gang violence, alcoholism, the war overseas, domestic violence, the immigration problem… and I can go on and on.

He never really answered the question about how he covered all the bases in two hours, but it was more of a rhetorical anyway.

Plus, I’d only give away his secrets in this blog… so it was a good move on his part not to give me a direct answer.

But here I am several days later still wondering how one writer / director dealt with all of these issues in the span of one film, in a way that was so subtly informative that when the film was over, I remained stuck in my seat trying to process everything I’d just seen?

It was as if the powerful imagery I’d just viewed now wanted to reintroduce itself into my thoughts allowing me an opportunity to understand the power of what I’d just witnessed…

Furthermore I wondered how on earth Peter managed to capture it all in a way that couldn’t possibly draw cries of stereotyping, glorification of violence or any other mistake Latino filmmakers formulate when trying to share our painful stories of struggle and survival on the big screen?

When Peter asked me if I was going to eat anything for dinner I said, “To be honest… my nerves are shot…”

It was as if what I’d just observed on the screen made me realize that our stories can be told with dignity and pride without ever losing their authenticity… and it moved me in a way that this writer still can’t find the words to express in great enough detail.

There is a scene in the movie that has played itself over and over again in my head…

The scene depicts a fight in the middle of the street and just when it’s about to climax into an all out war, an elderly Native American man steps into the picture and says, “Nephew… that’s enough…”

Three simple words from an elder… order is restored, respect is displayed, and the spirituality of life is discovered.

It was a scene that sent tears streaming down my face instantaneously as I wished that this generation had enough respect for their elders to actually freeze and obey a command of, “Stop,” during a violent altercation.

Imagine if we respected our elders that much in the streets of Compton, the South Bronx, Chicago and the Mission District of San Francisco…

Imagine how beautiful our neighborhoods would be if we became neighbors again, if we respected our heritage, our history and our past greatness.

And it was during this process of imaging what kind of world that would be, which made me very emotional.

La Mission is a dream realized by two brothers wanting to tell a story about where they came from. And although I could sit here and talk about the brilliance of the acting – because it unquestionably was – I’d much rather prefer to spend these words writing about the brilliance of the Bratt brother’s dream being realized.

Moreover, how that dream can blossom into thousands of quality films by people of color who now have a blueprint to follow.

Marsha Norman said that, “Dreams are illustrations… from the book your soul is writing about you.”

And with films like La Mission it becomes brilliantly apparent that sharing our souls with the world through writing and filmmaking allows us to realize our greatest dreams.

La Mission in life should always be to chase your dreams… and when you catch them, let them know they never stood a chance of escaping you when they took off running.

Because in the end… our dreams are worth living for!

Stay Brown…

Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.


  1. Great blog, Ivan! Thanks!!

    Michael Holman

  2. Ivan, you are so honest and express it so beautifully. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one haunted by this film but also freed by its message. We need more writers like you and filmmakers like Peter to remind us who we are and who we are capable of being.

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  4. Different barrios, similar stories...thanks for putting me on to this one Ivan....

  5. This movie will forever be etched in my heart!!!! all I can still say after seeing that movie is "wow". And what a great honor it was just to be able to watch it. This is a movie with so much depths... that to be able to capture all the issue in two hours is brilliant!!! Can't wait to see it again and again and again :)

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