Steve Lopez: Gaining inspiration from Father Boyle
If you’re still looking for something to do on Father’s Day, and you’d like to see a remarkably uplifting and inspirational film about a Los Angeles treasure, check out “G-Dog,” an L.A. Film Festival documentary showing Sunday at L.A. Live’s Regal Cinemas.
G-Dog is what the homies call Father Gregory Boyle, the Jesuit priest whose Homeboy Industries gang intervention program has redirected thousands of former gang members into safer and more productive lives over the last quarter of a century.
I saw a screening last week, and writer/director/producer Freida Mock — an Oscar winner for her film on the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the nation’s capital — wisely focused on the year 2010, when financial problems almost put Homeboy out of business. While trying to save the lives of young men and women, Boyle finds himself trying to save even his own job, and at one point jokes about having to tell his mother he could be collecting unemployment.
Boyle had critics early on who scornfully called his work “hug-a-thug,” but as the program evolved and drew the support of law enforcement officials like LAPD Chief Charlie Beck — who thinks of Homeboy as an important ally — the correspondence went from hate mail to fan mail. Boyle’s gospel was that for people with dysfunctional families, substandard schools and no job prospects, gang life is a natural allegiance, but the cycle can be broken with tough love, accountability, community and a show of respect.
Kinship is what Boyle calls it in the movie, telling Occidental College graduates that they don’t go to college, they go forth from it, into a community in which their lives can be measured not by their service to others, but their kinship with them.
“G-Dog” is showing at 4:20 p.m. Sunday. Go to www.lafilmfest.com for details.
-- Steve Lopez
Photo: Father Gregory Boyle in 2011. Credit: Allen Schaben / Los Angeles Times