G-Dog is the unlikely moniker for an unlikely social activist. Father Gregory Boyle is a Jesuit priest running a gang intervention program in Los Angeles’ troubled east side. Homeboy Industries is considered to be the most successful program of its kind in the United States with a retention rate of 70%.
Homeboy Industries is composed of 5 businesses with on-the-job training, a charter school, a tattoo removal service, and a counselling service offering sessions ranging from parenting to anger management to substance abuse. The heart of the program is Father Greg, and he is what makes it special. More than anything else, Homeboy Industries is a community where kinship is the abiding philosophy: there is no them, there is only us.
Father Greg believes that gangs are an expression of despair and that hope is a transformative force. Examples of that hope in action are numerous. Former gang member Louis is an articulate and charismatic spokesperson for Homeboy. Hector is a senior administrator at Homeboy. Former long-time drug addict Fabian is a state-certified substance abuse counsellor. Former homeboy Augustin is the ever popular anger management counsellor. Many others speak openly and expressively at fundraising events – a stark contrast to the stereotype of gang members as sullen, macho and volatile. This is in addition to the large number who found training and rehabilitation at Homeboy and have moved on to become contributing members of society.
Like much of the United States, Homeboy Industries did not pass unscathed through the financial difficulties of recent years. The film follows the organization through its fundraising efforts. It meanders a little but the eloquence and charisma of Father Greg and the importance of his work make for an engrossing film.
Sat, Apr 28 9:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Mon, Apr 30 6:45 PM, Cumberland 2
Sat, May 5 4:00 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre
For more information about the Hot Docs festival: www.hotdocs.ca
Written by Pauline Dong
A native Torontonian, Pauline enjoys much that the city has to offer, especially in the areas of food and drink. She is also an enthusiastic traveller and explorer of other cultures. A self-described film geek, her interest in movies was first piqued by the early works of Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino and Wong Kar-Wai. More a fan than a critic, she invites your thoughts on the films in her articles.