The concept of urban ownership is born of the latter half of the civil rights movement, and predicated upon notions and concepts of self-empowerment that Dr. Martin Luther King and others strived hard to impart in a generation of African-American youngsters. As those leaders have come of age and continued King’s work, they’ve begun to focus on providing to kids in their neighborhoods the encouragement and the same hand up that many of them never received. Winner of the Best Documentary prize at the Boston International Film Festival, The Pact is a stirring documentary account of the big, local difference that can be made through such efforts.
Directed by Andrea Kalin, The Pact tells the gritty, provocative true story of three best friends from the tough streets of Newark who made it out of their neighborhood to become doctors and returned home as men. By high school, Sampson Davis, Rameck Hunt and George Jenkins already knew too much about the drugs, crime and grinding poverty that colored their world, but they pledged to help each other make it to both college and medical school. All three young men beat the statistical odds — which saw only a handful of minorities from their school go on to four-year colleges — became doctors, and then decided to return to their communities to practice medicine. Authoring a book together on their word-is-bond uplift, the trio have turned their focus — despite grueling personal workloads — on inspiring others to stay off drugs, stay away from gangs, stay in school and focus on achievement.
Nicely photographed by Bryan Sarkinen, The Pact unfolds in a highly personal and anecdotal style, with plenty of interview material, and proud, cackling, devotional bragging from the boys’ third grade teacher, Viola Johnson. Davis (above left) talks movingly about the completeness he feels working at Beth Israel Medical Complex, the hospital where he was born, and overall the movie plays as a brisk, booster-shot infusion of positivism and inspiration, with the three subjects holding forth on their “three Ds” of self-betterment — dedication, discipline and determination.
Housed in a regular Amray case, The Pact is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with 15 chapter stops. Unlike many other WGBH releases, there’s a brief bonus featurette included here, a three-minute mini-trailer of sorts, featuring words of praise from Bill Cosby. In addition to links to The Pact‘s web site, there is also a downloadable DVD-ROM guide highlighting the doctors’ “3-D principle.” To order the DVD, or any release from WGBH, phone (800) 949-8670 or visit their web by clicking here. For more general information, click here. B+ (Movie) C (Disc)