Monday, July 12, 2010

Poet of Poverty DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams


Headline: Selfless Priest Bears Witness to His Impoverished Parish in Sobering Bio-Pic


                When Michael Doyle entered the seminary back in the Fifties, he probably had no idea he’d spend most of his adult life on the streets of the poorest city in America. After all, he was born and raised in County Longford, and was only sent to the States after being trained in the seminary before being ordained in his native Ireland.

                However, since 1974, he has served as the pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Camden, a seemingly-godforsaken city plagued by drugs, crime, violence, pollution and the depths of despair. In that capacity, Father Doyle has not merely ministered to the spiritual needs of his parishioners, but has exhibited a relentless commitment to alleviating the oppressive living conditions in which all of Camden’s beleaguered citizens have found themselves mired in unrelenting fashion for generations.

                That noble, ongoing effort is chronicled ever so artistically in Poet of Poverty, a reverential bio-pic co-directed by Sean Dougherty, Tana Ross and Freke Vuijst. For not only has their worthy subject spearheaded a number of urban renewal projects such as a health clinic, a thrift store, a community garden and a greenhouse, but he has written a series of honest, heartfelt letters over the years assessing the painstaking progress of his beloved Camden.

                These monthly missives were subsequently published in a moving memoir entitled, “It’s a Terrible Day… Thanks Be to God.” And in this equally-evocative documentary, which might best be thought of as a cinematic companion piece, narrator Martin Sheen reads a variety of visually-augmented excerpts from that journal.

                Besides an array of lyrical lines, the film feature shots of Father Doyle as he attends to his flock, including touching moments ranging from tearful memorial services for victims of drive-by shootings to a show of compassion for a coke-addicted prostitute who unknowingly propositions the celibate cleric with “Your place or mine?”

                Overall, a thoroughly thought-provoking expose’ whose sobering message might have been best summed up in the Poet of Poverty’s very own words: “The threat to the survival of this nation is not in Iraq, but in the inner core of our deadly cities.”


Excellent (4 stars)


Running time: 52 minutes

Studio: Green Room Productions

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