Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Interrupters

From the acclaimed director Steve James of the seminal 1990s basketball documentary Hoop Dreams, comes another tale of small people with big ambitions as we follow them on their day to day life.

Steve James takes his obtrusive and investigative camera onto the streets of Chicago as we follow in the footsteps of three interrupters - from the Ceasefire organisation who work intimately in their local areas to avoid political incidents becoming violent episodes on the streets, over the summer of 2009 to the early spring of 2010.

Alex Kotlowitz, whose original article is the basis for the film, wrote the script as he knows these people and their whereabouts and how they do their work. Kotlowitz's article focused on the groups founder Gary Slutkin, who equates violence with an infectious disease, insisting that its spread can be combated the way one would contain an outbreak of cholera or TB: by going after, as Kotlowitz (who serves as producer and also collaborated on interviews and sound) explains in his article, the most infected areas and stopping the sickness at its source.

James has a keen eye as a filmmaker and is a strong non-fiction director giving a voice to those rarely if never heard on such a vast platform, he follows the three mainstays of the group - Amena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra - all have criminal pasts, like most of the organization's outreach employees; their histories give them not just street cred but an understanding of how to defuse volatile disputes between family members, neighbors, and schools. CeaseFire, as The Interrupters points out more than once, isn't a substitute for the police, or even a partner; indeed, the group operates at times within a gray area. The focus, as one worker explains, "isn't trying to dismantle gangs but to save a life"—in other words, to stop a trigger from being pulled.

Following on from the seminal success of The Wire - this is equally gritty, full-on, graphic at times in its too close to the bone content but still this is a gripping, important and most significantly, hopeful document of good souls who do exist in this unique urban milieu such as Chicago suburbs depicted here.  Good sometimes will out.

The Interrupters is released from Dogwoof Pictures on DVD from Monday 5th December.

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