Downtown Los Angeles’ notorious homeless district becomes a place for transformation in this inspiring documentary. “Skid Row Marathon” follows Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell as he spends his days sentencing criminals in his Los Angeles County courtroom. However, he finds his real purpose outside the court, spending time with the homeless and recovering addicts.
Spurred by a visit to the Midnight Mission, the judge saw that his own passion for running could help the people he met. He starts a running club, whose participants try to move past their own histories of crime and addiction toward the promise of running an international marathon.
Using both interviews and observational footage, director Mark Hayes found a compelling story on which to center his film, and that narrative carries it through some structural choices that don’t entirely work. Some subjects and themes are given depth, but he sprints through others like there’s a medal waiting at the end.
“Skid Row Marathon” deals mostly with the transformative power of running, though it doesn’t delve too deeply into specifics. However, this is a moving documentary that treats its subjects with the dignity and respect they don’t always get but certainly deserve. Hayes’ film will inspire those with an interest in criminal justice reform or homelessness to take action, as well as stir runners to lace up their shoes.
Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
Playing: Oct. 14 only, in general release, Fathom Events