Benjamin Bratt, Peter Bratt, Jeremy Ray Valdez at La Mission's Phoenix Opening

I made the 7 p.m. Friday, June 11 showing of La Mission at AMC Arizona Center to catch the appearances of the film's stars Benjamin Bratt and Jeremy Ray Valdez, as well as director Peter Bratt, Benjamin's brother.

The Arizona Center show was dedicated to raising money for local Latino advocacy groups such as Somos America and Puente. Prior to the film's screening the Bratts and Jeremy Ray Valdez -- who in the movie plays Jes, the son of Benjamin Bratt's character Che -- signed autographs for attendees. They took a break while the film was screening and got a bite to eat at Sam's Cafe in the Arizona Center.

I found out that Valdez grew up in Tempe, even though he was born in New Mexico. In fact, he told me he went to elementary, junior high and high school in Tempe. His high school was Marcos de Niza High School, and his parents still live in the area. I asked if he was concerned about the impact of SB 1070 on his family.

"Not just my family," he said. "I'm worried about everybody's family with racial profiling and being treated unfairly."

He continued, "As far as SB 1070, I think it's an unconstitutional law. There's an immigration issue and I think there are smarter ways to deal with it. Basically the people who have made these choices are not putting their heads into it."

Valdez also voiced strong opinions against the boycott of his former home state, saying that boycotting "does nothing to solve the problem," and that, "you can do more with your voice than by withholding your voice."

The Q&A session following the screening lasted about 30 minutes, and the Bratts and Valdez were joined by UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta, who observed parallels between the hatred directed at gays, which is depicted in the film, and hatred directed at Hispanics. 

"The same people that are carrying on this campaign of hatred," she said, "against our people who happen to be undocumented, and all of us who happen to be brown, these are the same people who often have the same hatred against people who happen to have a different sexual orientation. So we know we always have to make a commitment to end all of the different...hatreds, and we have a lot of work to do in our own community."

At one point, Peter Bratt addressed the issue of the boycott, and said he and his brother had gotten encouragement from their Peruvian-born mom to come to Arizona.

"Our mother is an old time activist," he explained. "And I was personally challenged with, you know, do we cross the boycott or do we honor it? And my mom said, `No, you need to go. Those are our people. They're the ones living under that yoke of oppression.You need to go down and show solidarity with them.'"

He also commented on the drive to strip children born of undocumented parents of their right to citizenship as enshrined in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a drive led by our own neo-Nazi hugging state Senator Russell Pearce.

"I just read this morning now they're talking about `anchor babies,'" he stated. "They want to go after the unborn...who are innocent beings. That really sickened me to my stomach...For a supposedly Christian nation, we can do better than that. Love thy neighbor. Those are our neighbors. Those are our people."

The group then had to head off for another Q&A round over at Harkins Arizona Mills. The movie is still showing locally, and well worth the price of admission. Check out La Mission's Web site, and my recent interview with Benjamin Bratt for more.

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