Fr. Greg Boyle speaks at his desk at Homeboy Industries during the filming of “Homeboy Joy Ride.” (Courtesy Paul Steinbroner)
Fr. Greg Boyle speaks at his desk at Homeboy Industries during the filming of “Homeboy Joy Ride.” (Courtesy Paul Steinbroner)
A newly available film produced in the Pacific Northwest offers a soulful inside look at Home-boy Industries, a ministry to former gang members and felons led by Jesuit Father Greg Boyle in Los Angeles.

The 30-minute documentary, “Homeboy Joy Ride,” is the first in a series of six films that ex-plore the spiritual dimension of addiction recovery.

Paul Steinbroner, a filmmaker from Wenatchee, Washington, spent a career documenting brain chemistry and pharmacology. Inspired by his Catholic education, Steinbroner was hungry to tell a story about spirit.

“It’s not a regular film. It’s a film that builds community,” Steinbroner said during an April 19 showing at the Metanoia Peace House in Northeast Portland. “People ask me why we should pay attention to these former gang members and drug addicts. These people died and came back to life. They have so much to teach us.”

Almost every former gang member Steinbroner interviewed for the film described a spiritual transformation, a moving from chaos to clarity.

One recovering addict summed it up like this: “God tells you you’re brand new.”

Some of the most gripping scenes come in the tattoo removal room, where former gang-bangers bravely put up with intense pain to leave their pasts behind.

“The way I was living was suicide,” said one former heroin addict.

Homeboy Industries puts people to work baking, making t-shirts, recycling computers, among other projects.

The unpresuming spiritual master behind the ministry, and a star of the film, is Father Boyle — white-bearded, balding, amiable and brilliant.

“Sin is what keeps us from having access to happiness,” Father Boyle says in the documentary. “It’s not the grim duty of being Catholic. It’s the joy of the Gospel. All God wants to give us is a joy ride.”

Steinbroner says that Father Boyle elicits tenderness and vulnerability in former gang mem-bers. Father Boyle himself says, “The highest form of spiritual maturity is tenderness.”

The reasons people leave gangs and come to Father Boyle include losing a friend to violence, having a child or emerging from a long stint in prison when there was time to think.

In the film, Father Boyle says spirituality is key to keeping the recovery going. Unlike drugs, prayer helps people move through pain and transform it instead of simply numbing it.

The priest has a message for those of us who are not gang members or addicts: We all have problems. “If you don’t keep your own wounds close, you will look down on the wounded,” he says.

Steinbroner, wearing a Homeboy Industries t-shirt, told his Portland audience that Homeboy Industries stands up for the idea that all human beings belong to each other. “They just treat everybody like they are Christ.”