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More often than not, when there is a story in the news about black people in the inner city, it is steeped in negativity and stereotypes. We've all seen the plight of urban blight, and the ghetto squalor that has destroyed so many lives; but a continuous barrage of these stories and images is enough to drain the life out of even the most optimistic of souls, leaving them depressed and dejected. This is why director Andrea Kalin's documentary The Pact is such a refreshing experience. Instead of dwelling on the negativity that has become the defacto image of inner city life, Kalin instead focuses on something incredibly positive.
Sampson Davis, Rameck Hunt and George Jenkins--known in many circles as the Three Doctors--grew up on the mean streets of Newark, New Jersey. While in their teens, the three friends decided to make something of their lives, and formed a pact that they would become doctors. True to their word, they did just that, and their accomplishment was chronicled in the inspiring book, The Pact. The documentary, while covering some of the history of Davis, Hunt and Jenkins, really focuses more on where their lives are now that they have become heroes, role models and celebrities. Kalin's film presents the Three Doctors as they juggle their professional medical roles with their positions as community leaders and inspirations to other inner city residents who dream of achieving more than is expected of them. In this, The Pact is a conventional documentary in both its approach to story and content. But where the film becomes something a bit more special is in its portrait of Malique Bazemore, a junior high school student who idolizes the Three Doctors, and plans on attending medical school himself someday. The Pact may be about the Three Doctors, but it is Malique who steals the show.
At its heart and soul, The Pact strives to be an inspirational documentary that leaves its audience feeling good. And on that level it is certainly successful. There is no way you can watch the film and not feel emotionally moved, especially when you see Malique tending to his disabled sister, or you hear Davis talking about the life of crime that threatened to lead him down a different path. And to be sure, the film is entertaining. But at the same time, the film is lacking by way of conflict or emotional complexity. Or more specifically, the film chooses not to explore the real conflicts or challenges faced by any of its subjects with much depth. An ongoing conflict with Davis and the hospital he works at over his hours provides hints of conflict that is never fully addressed. And it's the same with Hunt's younger sister, who lives with him as she tries to get her life in order. Both of these stories are introduced, but barely explored, making it feel like the movie is trying to let the audience know that these guys face problems in their lives, without bringing down the "feel good" tenor of things.
Despite the minor criticisms I have with The Pact, it is still a well-made film that succeeds as an inspirational story. Equally as important, it is a wonderful counterbalance to the negative images that so often accompany stories about black people in America.
The Pact is presented in 1.33:1 widescreen. The picture quality is very good, with a crisp clean image and vibrant colors. The image transfer is solid, and the picture looks consistently good throughout.
The Pact is presented 2.0 Dolby Digital. The sound mix is good, with the audio levels are consistent.
A brief featurette (3 min.) with interview footage of Bill Cosby--who appears in the film--serves as more a teaser trailer than anything else; but other than that, there are no other bonus materials.
The Pact is a documentary that is both inspirational and entertaining. It is definitely worth watching, and would make for great viewing with young people, especially those who feel they face limited options in their lives.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]