With a title like G-Dog and a subject like Homeboy Industries, you'd be forgiven for being surprised to learn that this documentary's lead subject is a Jesuit priest.
The first in Cinedigm's seven-week series of seven documentaries about "the most compelling stories yet to be told," G-Dog features Fr. Greg Boyle as the eponymous G and his reentry program for folks coming out of jail – Homeboy Industries. Boyle's program, which includes job placement in a bakery, cafe, or screenprinting shop; tattoo removal; addiction services; parenting classes; and much more, caters to the underserved gang communities in East Los Angeles.
From his early days as "a priest on a bicycle" being cautioned by neighborhood police to stay off the streets in Boyle Heights (as if it were all his own) to present day, the affable Boyle has wanted to serve the poor. But with his Homeboy project, he's also making history in the criminal justice arena: His Homeboys and Homegirls have only a 30% recidivism rate – less than half of the 70% who reoffend in the rest of the population. His program's success has earned him recognition from city and state officials, and Homeboy Industries has been studied for adaptation in at least half a dozen other cities.
But it's not easy maintaining that vast array of services for an ever-growing number in need. Homeboy Industries got hit with a major budget shortfall in the recession, and hundreds had to be laid off. Watching the Homeboys rally to support G-Dog (their loving moniker for Greg Boyle) will bring a tear to even the most jaded eye.
Cinedigm's focus is on "real stories," and this is absolutely one of those. It's a simply told story of a man who wanted to help and the hundreds who will do anything to give a little something back to him. There's heartache in watching the company buckle under the weight of serving more with less, there's drama and intrigue as rival gang members learn how to work together in their newfound freedom, and there's humor in Boyle's delightful anecdotes about his crew. All in all, it's well worth your time to see this man's big heart on the big screen.
G-Dog screens tonight at 7pm at the Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane and again at 4pm on Saturday, April 27, and 1pm on Sunday, April 28, both at Alamo Village.
The rest of the Cinedigm Docurama series includes Vivian Las Antipodas, The World Before Here, Fruit Hunters, Charge, Ping Pong, and London: The Modern Babylon. Look for more on those screenings in the coming weeks, and check out the series trailer below.
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