G-Dog

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
G-Dog Movie Poster Image
Inspiring docu about gang intervention program in LA.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 92 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

This film is a testament to the concept that one person can make a significant difference in his or her community. Promotes individual involvement in healing the world. Acknowledges that even hardened criminals and gang members can find hope and redemption when quality social service agencies intervene... "Nothing can stop a bullet like a job." Empathy is a major theme.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Father Gregory Doyle (the "G-Dog" of the title) is a dynamic example of commitment, compassion, intelligence, and faith. His life work has had great impact not just on his own community, but on the world at large. G-Dog shows how he works his miracles; the film has the capacity to inspire others to do the same. The former gang members and criminals that he works with are given ample screen time so that the viewer can relate to their humanness, their courage, and the universality of their hopes and aspirations.

Violence

References to past gang activity and violence in the community, including two (offscreen) deaths.

Sex
Language

A few curse words: "f--k," "bulls--t," "damn," "wipe my butt."

Consumerism

Homeboy Industries' various commerical enterprises in Los Angeles are highlighted throughout.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many references to past drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and intervention.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that G-Dog is a documentary film about Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest who works with former gang members in Los Angeles, California. The film has extraordinary potential to both educate and inspire mature kids and teens. It counters fear-inducing headlines and news articles about gang activity and offers instead an in-depth portrait of how desperation, anger, and hatred can be healed. While there are heartbreaking stories (including two off-camera deaths), the emphasis is on positive methods and outcomes as they happen at Homeboy Industries, the agency created and run by Father Boyle. A few harsh curse words are sprinkled throughout ("f--k," "bulls--t").

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What's the story?

If Father Gregory Boyle has doubts about his optimistic world view or his ability to help heal his community, they're well hidden in G-DOG. This warm, compassionate, miracle worker has used his intelligence, his faith in God, and his love for kids to create a "sanctuary for homeboys and homegirls" in a gang-infested part of Los Angeles. Using footage taken at the facility, photographs, and interviews, this documentary film highlights the creation, rise, financial struggles, and stunning successes of Homeboy Industries. Whether there for education, counseling, job preparation and placement, anger management sessions, parenting and life skills classes, or even tattoo removal, former gang-bangers, drug users, and kids without hope can, in Father Boyle's terms, "choose to matter." The agency now employs hundreds of kids in their own cafes, bakery, even producing products found in local grocery stores. Particularly heartening are the moments when we are privy to the personal stories of those whose lives have changed forever and who are passing their good fortune forward.

Is it any good?

The subject matter is so compelling, the people involved so engaging, and the outcomes so positive, that this documentary can't help but be a memorable, motivating experience for its viewers. Freida Lee Mock, the Academy Award winning documentarian who made Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, has a way of finding the soul of her subjects and bringing their humanity to the screen. In this case she has taken marginal, often despised, urban kids and given them and their rehabilitation star status.

Father Gregory Boyle deserves the acclaim and respect he receives from Mock. The simple facts that Homeboy Industries exists, and that G-Dog will extend its reach, are miraculous accomplishments.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the purpose of documentaries. Did G-Dog change your notion of what "gang bangers" are like?  Do you have a better understanding of the circumstances in which gangs grow and flourish? What is your takeaway from this film?

  • Did this movie inspire or motivate you? Are there any opportunities in your community that might appeal to your sense of service to others? How would you find such an opportunity that is age-appropriate for you?

  • It's quite clear that the filmmaker admires Father Gregory Boyle and his work. When watching a documentary, is it important to know how the filmmaker feels about the subject? Why?

  • How does G-Dog promote compassion, courage, and empathy? Why are these important character strengths?

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