The simple compassion and humanity we share with others can make a huge impact. Both Academy Award-winning director Freida (Lee) Mock and Jesuit priest Father Greg Boyle understand that. Boyle is the subject in Mock’s latest film, G-Dog, a look into Homeboy Industries, the largest and most successful gang intervention and rehabilitation program in the country.
Started by Boyle, Homeboy Industries gives former gang members training, jobs, and offers a variety of personal development courses such as anger management and fathering skills. But just as importantly, a tremendous impact is felt through the generous friendships between Father Boyle and the Homeboys. Called G-Dog by the Homeboys, Father Boyle is known for taking young men and women under his arm immediately upon meeting them. The only thing that's prevented him from enrolling more people in his program, as the film illustrates, is financial crisis.
Despite a bakery, Homegirls Café, and a variety of other business endeavors, the comprehensive and intense programming requires significant support from donations. And even though the annual cost of a juvenile in detention is $125,000 (which is more than twice Harvard’s tuition), substantial funding has not flowed to Homeboy Industries.
But what other rehabilitation program has resulted in gang members shooting texts at each other instead of bullets? In a commencement speech, Boyle shares a story of riding in a car with a Homeboy who suddenly breaks out laughing. He shows Boyle the text he received:
“Dog, I just got busted for being the ugliest vato in L.A. Can you come down and prove them they got the wrong guy?”
The exchange was between former rival gang members.
These small, intimate moments demonstrate the transformational change that can occur through genuine -- if unexpected -- relationships, and it’s impossible not to be moved by the film and the tremendous work of Homeboy Industries. The documentary also focuses on how the lives of both the Homeboys and G-Dog have changed. Mock has mined these moments throughout her career, focusing on the everyday yet extraordinary things individuals do that inspire and change multitudes. By focusing on these achievements, her films speak to the rest of us -- lighting a spark within to accomplish great feats.
photos courtesy of ‘G-Dog’ the movie.
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