The Interrupters review by Melissa Orcine - Cinema Paradiso
The documentary film ‘The Interrupters’ starts with this startling tidbit: In Chicago, one hundred twenty-four people have been killed so far this year – one per day – about the number of Americans killed during the same period in Iraq and Afghanistan. That was from a news report in 2009 and the same year, film maker Steve James begins to document the lives affected by the violence and those who intervene called ‘The Interrupters’.
Inspired by the 2008 New York Times Magazine article by Alex Kotlowitz – who also serves a co-producer – ‘The Interrupters’ is a brave attempt at spotlighting the culture of violence in Chicago and the CeaseFire workers who lay their lives on the line to change and save more lives. CeaseFire is a product of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention founded by Dr. Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist who likens violence to a disease such as AIDS or tuberculosis. In Chicago, the killings are senseless, brought about by impulsive individuals who don’t know better.
The documentary follows three professional Interrupters: Ameena Matthews, daughter of Jeff Fort, one of the most feared gang lords in Chicago; Cobe Williams, former gangbanger who was in prison for 12 years; and Eddie Bocanegra, also jailed for murder when he was 17. All Interrupters are living ‘normal’ lives – Ameena’s a wife and mother, Cobe’s a suburban dad, and Eddie’s a volunteer art teacher at an elementary school. Among the three, it is the petite Ameena who is the force to be reckoned with. She drives and roams the streets with purpose, even taking into her wing a young woman named Caprysha, inculcating in her that her circumstance can still change. Most of the people they reach out to are hostile, volatile, or uncooperative – or all of the above – but Interrupters are not deterred.
‘The Interrupters’ could have been a lecture on politically defective policies on gun control or race relations, but it doesn’t go there. The film does not point fingers – it wants to inform. And in the end, dares the viewer by asking: Now what are you going to do about it?