Friday, August 3, 2012

The Interrupters

Release Date: 2011
Production Company: Kartemquin Films/Rise Films
Directors: Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz
Run time: 125 minutes
Seen on: Netflix DVD, on PBS
Update 5/20/13, Available Free Online at PBS

Even before I watched, The Interrupters , I was impressed by its pedigree.  It is directed by Steve James who is also responsible for the acclaimed Hoop Dreams.  That is on my must watch list.  Kartemquin Films is also responsible for Refrigerator Mothers, a film I watched in February and was also impressed with.

This film follows the Cease Fire program in the neighborhood of Englewood in Chicago's South Side.  "Violence is like a disease, it spreads from one person to another.  To cure it you must interrupt it."  The film follows The Interrupters through a year in Chicago and focuses mostly on Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams, and Eddie Bocanegra: former gang members who now work with the program. 

The goal of The Interrupters is to "interrupt" the cycle of violence.  The idea behind it seems fairly straight forward.  If violence leads to violence leads to more violence, the only way to stop it is to convince someone not to retaliate.  But how does one step into a conflict and break the cycle?  This film follows them into the fray, directly into conflicts, fights, and community action.  You see Ameena speaking to the youth at a funeral.  You see Cobe trying to convince a friend to follow the right path.  You see Eddie teaching art to kids.

The film follows them through a full year and begins in the summer.  One of the first shots brought me right to Baltimore.  Someone on the corner selling "Ice Cold Water, One Dollar."  The chant and the cadence was the same in Chicago that it is in Baltimore.  While I do not have first hand experience with the violence in Baltimore, it appears that Chicago may have some of the same problems with poverty and violence among young people.

This is a film that I was not able to look away from.  I had this on my list for a few weeks, but it took me awhile to get up the courage to watch it.  This is not easy to watch but I highly recommend it.  The Interrupters is a captivating and potent view of a community in crisis.

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