Brothers Benjamin and Peter Bratt join forces in “La Mission,” the story of a widowed ex-con raising his son in San Francisco’s Mission district who finds his traditional views challenged when he discovers the boy is gay. On a recent visit to Dallas, where the picture was featured in the USA Film Festival, they talked about their collaboration—their second, after “Follow Me Home” (1996).

“We’ve always wanted to work together, which historically speaks to the fact that we’ve always wanted to be around one another,” Benjamin said. “We’ve been best friends since we were young boys, and whether we were playing together or causing mischief or working together on some early jobs like a paper route or picking weeds or painting fences or building decks, we’ve always enjoyed spending time with one another. So as we evolved into storytellers, it’s a happy coincidence that artistically we find ourselves very much aligned.”

Peter explained, “We had always dreamed of making a film in San Francisco where we’re from, and always dreamed of it taking place in our own back yard—the Mission district. So [the catalyst was] wanting to collaborate at home, and also finding a character that could really give an experience of that place.”

Benjamin praised his writer-director brother’s success in fashioning the part of the father, Che Rivera, so subtly. “It’s the most complex character I’ve had the opportunity to play—the most fully-drawn,” he said. “What I found most compelling about playing him is that my brother created a kind of cinematic archetype in Che Rivera in that it doesn’t matter if you’re from the Latino community, you immediately recognize who this man is. He’s an echo of Charles Bronson or Clint Eastwood or Marlon Brando or Al Pacino in ‘Scarface’—someone who doesn’t say much, but gets the job done with violence. That was by design, I think, on the part of my brother—to create someone the audience would immediately identify with, and possibly revere, because that’s how we’ve been socialized, to revere someone who can take care of business with his fists.

“Then what made it compelling was to begin to peel the layers back and discover what really makes a man like this tick. And what we discover about Che Rivera is that what really drives him is his love for his community and not least the love that he has for his boy.”

Peter added, “There’s no question but that he’s used his fists before—and he’s most likely hurt people and did time for it. He’s come from that experience and tried to make a go of it—just a working-class guy, taking care of his home, his focus is his child. He’s pretty happy with his station in life, everything’s okay, and then…”

“That was for me what I found most interesting,” Benjamin continued. “To play a person who in his own mind has evolved a considerable amount from where he started before the movie begins. But with the circumstances that arise, it’s altogether clear to us—not so much so to him—that he has a much further way to go. And he doesn’t really begin that journey until the end of the film.

“Che Rivera is drawn from a real-life guy whose name is Che—I won’t give you his last name—who was someone we admired,” Benjamin explained. And one of the aspects of the character drawn from him was that he was a low-rider, with a customized car that cruised the streets, along with others, on long night drives. “The hard-core cats were the ones who were customizing their cars and doing the cruise down Mission Street before it was legally banned. And we admired the aesthetic, we admired almost the sense of ritual that goes into the lifestyle in terms of customizing everything.”

“When we were kids,” Peter added, “there would be on the weekends an incredible festive spirit that would happen on Friday and Saturday nights. The young people would come, there’d be a lot of excitement in the air, and there would be low-rider trains as far as you could see.”

“The guy I play in the film,” Benjamin explained, “he’s the personification of that ritual, in that everything has a specific meaning—the forties hats and clothes, the style of music he listens to is anachronistic. He listens to oldies R&B, the cars he drives are not newer than the 1960s—they’re referred to as bombs. So there’s a generational differentiation between him and his son’s generation that is very purposeful. So we grew up although not steeped in that particular cultural perspective, certainly with an appreciation for it.”

“As a filmmaker,” Peter added, “the low-rider really was a perfect vehicle. It literally enabled me to invite the audience to hop in, put on some music and take a cruise into a world that may or may not be familiar. That really informed the pacing of the film, the camera movement. The cars are so cinematic—they glide, they move slowly, they’re beautiful, they’re vibrantly colored.”

Benjamin noted that their cinematographer “said something interesting the other day in recognition of all of the visual vibrancy that exists in the neighborhood. He simply had to get out of his own way. He said, ‘I had to approach it as though I were a fool, so I didn’t come to it with any preconceived notions about what was beautiful and what was not. Wherever I pointed the camera it would fill itself with beauty.’ Which is very apt, because invariably every other building you pass has these vibrantly-colored murals of cultural pride, and on some level indigenous resistance to colonization that began over five hundred years ago. So there’s this cultural pride mixed with resistance—there’s a dignity and that kind of pride behind it. And it’s not just on the buildings—it’s depicted on the cars as well.”

Peter added, “In my mind, it’s like cultural DNA. People who descend from the Mayan-Aztec, who had these beautiful glyphs on their pyramids and dwellings five hundred years ago. And today that aesthetic lives on in a different form—on the low-rider car and the corner store.”

And, many will agree, in a film like “La Mission” as well.