Judge Jason Panella is a DVD-Dog.
Nothing stops a bullet like a job.
When Father Greg Boyle was appointed pastor of a church in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, he quickly realized his calling to the community also encompassed the more dangerous parts of town. Boyle Heights had plenty of these, due to an astronomical amount of gang activity. Before long, Father Boyle set up Homeboy Industries, a program to help young gang members get off of the streets and find jobs. More than two decades later, Homeboy Industries has one of the highest success rates for helping at-risk youth in the country.
G-Dog is a no-frills documentary that doesn't need frills. The story of Father Boyle is powerful enough on its own. Director Freida Lee Mock (Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Voice) and her crew spend most of the film's 92 minutes covering the history of Homeboy Industries, from its humble beginnings in the late 1980s as a small job-training program, to its current expansive reach. The non-profit now hosts a ton of opportunities for at-risk youth to avoid gangs: employment and training in an on-site bakery, free tattoo removals, GED programs, and more. Many of the people who found a new life through Boyle's outreach now work with Homeboy Industries. Their firsthand testimonies of the possibilities that await outside of gang-life are part of the reason why Homeboy has a 70% success rate.
While much of G-Dog focuses on Father Boyle, the priest is quick to say this isn't about him; it's about community and treating people like they're worth something. It's easy to get infected by Father Boyle's personality. He's quick-witted and wise, and seems to genuinely love his neighborhood and the people in it.
Docurama Films gives G-Dog a passable DVD treatment. Both the standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen visuals and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo work, but some of the footage from Father Boyle's speaking engagements is difficult to interpret, and the lack of any subtitles doesn't help. Also, no extras!
Though Mock makes a few weird directorial choices, like inserting still images over interview footage (e.g. we see a picture of an airplane wing every time the interviewee says "wing"), G-Dog is well worth your time. The quality of the film overcomes an otherwise so-so release.
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