The Films of Benjamin Bratt

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on June 27, 2013

The Films of Benjamin Bratt

By Lisa Franek

Benjamin Bratt is a busy man. But you would be too, if you were as talented as he is. He’s one of those actors who manages to morph from role to role, whether it’s comedy, sci-fi, or drama, he seems at home. I recently took a foray down memory lane to review some of his work. Full disclosure: I never watched Law & Order. Or Private Practice.

Still, Mr. Bratt has an entertaining and impressive body of work. Many of my California friends invoke the title of Blood In Blood Out as a film that has had a significant impact of their lives, whether they are Latino or not. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s interesting to see that it features some actors that were fairly new to the scene back then, but are now well known and respected actors, including Ving Rhames, Danny Trejo, and Billy Bob Thornton. The film plays out as a brother against brother drama, but is really an exploration of community, family, belonging, and forgiveness. Just under 10 years later, Bratt played the lead role in Piñero, a biopic directed by Cuban-American Leon Ichaso (who is known for directing the TV series Miami Vice). A fascinating film about a fascinating man, it moves between modes of storytelling that makes the film seem like an extension of the man, and Bratt pulls it off well.

I did see Bratt on a couple of TV shows; Andromeda Strain and Modern Family. While he has great charisma and comedic timing as Gloria’s ex-husband on Modern Family, it’s nice to know he’s able to play roles that aren’t specifically Latino, like the scientist of Andromeda (and of course a doctor on Private Practice and detective on Law & Order). I know you didn’t ask, but I’m just going to throw it out there: not enough Latinos are cast in roles like that, whether it’s television or film. Bratt pulls it off effortlessly, because hey, that’s what actors do.

And then a few weeks ago I saw him in a quiet film from Canada titled The Lesser Blessed that explores the coming of age of a young Dagreb tribe member of the Northern Territories. Bratt plays the boy’s father-figure; a strong, sometimes absent presence in the boy’s life that brings direction and peace to a tumultuous and confusing kid struggling with bullies, a crush, and remembering traditions. It’s not Bratt’s most high profile role, but it’s a really good one. This film stuck with me for several days; the grayish darkness at what seems like the top of the world, the buttoned up parkas hiding who-knows-what beneath downy feathers and long underwear. It’s a film for those who want something smart and different. I know I’ve never seen a film like this, from a place I literally know nothing about.

And for anyone who is wondering (or will let me brag a bit), I had the privilege of meeting him and his brother a few years ago at the San Diego Latino Film Festival, when their film La Mission was playing. Not only was it a powerful film that truly moved the audience, but the Bratts(Ben’s brother Peter directed La Mission) were delightful. It’s difficult not to like people who are charming, witty, smart, and hunky. I for one, look forward to seeing more great work from Ben (and Peter!).

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