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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?
- On DVD or streaming: April 23, 2013
- Cast: Father Gregory Boyle
- Director: Freida Lee Mock
- Studio: American Film Foundation
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage, Empathy
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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