My review of Warrior Boyz appears in this week's Westender.
The front pages of local papers have become little more than a running tally for the body count succumbing to gang violence. Baljit Sangra’s new documentary, Warrior Boyz, packs a punch that hits uncomfortably close to home, tackling Indo-Canadian gangs in Surrey, and the teenage wannabes risking their lives to belong.
Jagdeep is the unofficial elder statesmen, sharing his story with at-risk teens. He’s a tough-talking ex-gang member, lean and fierce, and the residual anger of his youth still infuses his words as he recalls the perpetual racism he faced as a young immigrant in the Lower Mainland, and the escalating violence that inevitably resulted in a jail sentence.
It’s a pattern the audience sees repeating in 15-year-old Tanvir’s life. The downward spiral is almost dizzying, as he’s kicked out of his home and out of school, and begins to carry a baseball bat for protection. The interviews Sangra conducts with Tanvir are frustrating and frightening: they reveal a good kid making terrible decisions, and it’s devastating to imagine what his future holds.
Warrior Boyz barely cracks the 40-minute mark, but it feels like the start of a crucial conversation that desperately needs to continue. It’s heartening to see educators like Sukh Rai, the vice principal tasked with keeping these kids on track, make such an impact on boys like Vicky, the18-year-old trying to leave his past behind and graduate. Vicky refuses to reveal the extent of his gang involvement, for fear of retaliation, but it’s also the film’s weak spot, compromising the totality of Boyz’s impact as the audience never finds out what’s scared him straight.