By/Por Sharon Hardee Jimenez, Senior Film Reviewer
The documentary film by Academy Award Winner Frieda Mock about one of the greatest living humanitarians is a riveting piece of film journalism certain to be a hit at the LA Film Festival 2012.
Los Angeles has been waiting for a film to follow Father Greg Boyle’s bestselling book “Tattoos on the Heart.” In a city of iconic stars, a grey bearded priest has emerged as a modern saint bigger than the movie stars and studio moguls who live in the best neighborhoods of LA. The house that G-Dog built, Homeboy Industries, is more important to the story of Los Angeles in the past three decades than any home of the rich and famous.
Mock’s documentary reveals a community of LA’s untouchables finding hope in the generous and endless love of a man who couldn’t accept his own privilege growing up in one of LA’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Inspired by a family of faithful Catholics led by his devoted parents,Greg Boyle gave up an inviable life to live with and minister to the poorest communities of LA. The love that G-DOG has inspired through his leadership for jobs and rehabilitation of hard core gangsters is brilliantly told through the touching stories of real people. Shayna Welcher, Hector Verdugo, Fabian Debora, Louis Perez, Kyle Shoaf, Brian Moon, and Veronica Vargas each share the life changing experiences as the filmmaker weaves the story of G-Dog that begins in 2010 and ends in 2011. This film will be transforming as the story of this priest is one of the most remarkable real life dramas happening on the planet today. One of Father Greg’s greatest gifts brilliantly recorded by this documentary film team is his ability to tell stories. In the film he explains why the prisons in California are filled with so many young people. Racism, domestic violence, poverty, and divorce are all hallmarks of the life stories of these gang members who go from juvenile hall to adult prisons with regularity. The struggle to overcome impossible odds is the central theme of G-Dog as he spins parables that reflect classical biblical stories inspiring the human race for centuries.
Editor’s personal note:
If there is a criticism of G-Dog the Documentary Movie it is that the film doesn’t begin to tell the full story of Father Greg Boyle’s long hard fight in LA that eventually led to his founding of Homeboy Industries. I know the story because I lived it with him in the 90s.
I met Greg in 1991 when I moved to LA from San Francisco. I drove over to meet him after being told to go see him by Father Charles Gagan the lead priest at the beautiful St. Ignatius Church in Golden Gate Park. Father Greg was sitting in a small, dark office surrounded by little “homies” who called themselves the “Pandea Mugroso” the dirty little gang. Danny, Omar, Oscar, Juan, Richard, Little Richard, and a dozen or so boys would become a part of my own family for more than a year.
60 Minutes did a story about Father Greg Boyle with the famous CBS reporter Mike Wallace arriving in a black limo to interview the homeboys about a gang priest that the LAPD wasn’t very happy about and the LA Catholic Archdiocese didn’t know what to do about. Father Greg ruffled many feathers in this city before he came back from prison ministry where he was sent to get him out of the heat of the barrio. I remember how deeply saddened I felt when the homies around Delores Mission smashed car windows in retaliation for Greg being sent away. I learned the homies considered Greg a father as much as a priest and they needed fathers and mothers in a big way. My family benefited greatly from growing in with homies visiting us on weekends. My children learned that not everyone in LA lived the way they lived and had parents who cared about them. Father Greg finally returned and the kids eventually stopped coming over. Most joined gangs, but G-Dog assured me none of my kids became ‘shooters’ which is a big deal in a gun obsessed society and sub-culture. Three of the homies graduated from high school and went onto college.
Latino Weekly Review gives a big thumps up to G-Dog and applauds the converts in Los Angeles who’ve come to understand his work as groundbreaking. Some may even admit that Father Greg Boyle is divinely inspired bringing ‘God’ into a world needing light. Dedicating this review to Soledad Jimenez the Mexican immigrant grandmother of my children who died at 90 after a rich life serving the poor. Father Greg Boyle was at her bedside and gave her last rites. Grandma Chole shared G-Dog’s gift of faith and knew how to be the ‘finger’ that points to God.
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