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The Interrupters

Preventing The Outbreak of Violence in Chicago

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


Filmmaker Steve James, known for his compassionate and insightful documentaries profiling people facing extreme challenges in their lives, and co-producer Alex Kotlowitz deliver a gripping feature about CeaseFire, a Chicago-based grass roots organization dedicated to preventing violent outbreaks among residents of impoverished, drug and crime-infested inner city neighborhoods.

The film follows group members as they encounter men, women and children on the verge of violence, interrupt their actions and try with no-nonsense councilling to guide disputants to resolving their differences through discussion and negotiation.

Extreme Violence in America

Using news reports -- most notably those about the notorious brutal beating of Derrion Albert, a Chicago high school student whose death was recorded on videotape -- and shockingly high statistics about death-dealing violent crimes in the US, the filmmakers establish the unstable and threatening milieu in which the members of CeaseFire work, often risking their own lives in order to prevent violent outbreaks in their communities.

The CeaseFire members are extraordinary characters, many of whom are reformed gang members who've come to their commitment against violent behavior via personal experience with violence in the past. Their personal stories are filled with real life drama, and it is impossible not to find their determination to make changes for the better in their communities extremely moving.

Through chronicling CeaseFire's daily activities and the organization's responses to challenging situations that develop among its clients and within the communities it serves, the filmmakers take us on a tour of the inner city streets, showing us how violence puts communities into a downward spiral of despair. We can see despair and desperation on people's faces, especially on those of the kids. This is not an easy documentary to watch, but it is one which must be seen.

Interrupting Can Only Do So Much

While focusing on the CeaseFire Interrupters as heroes whose commitment, negotiating skills and determination herald incremental change for the better, the film makes it quite clear that the underlying causes of inner city violence -- the abject poverty, lack of education, insufficient social services, absence of job opportunities and banished hope, to be specific -- must be addressed if CeaseFire's one-on-one cease-the-violence work is to be truly effective. Until these pervasive social ills are cured, violence will continue to plague US urban environments, annually killing more American citizens on our cities' streets than in all of America's current arenas of war combined. Yes, that is one of the shocking statistics reported in this stirring and disturbing film, which masterfully underscores the need for political, social and economic reform in America.

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Film Details:

  • Title: The Interrupters
  • Director: Steve James
  • Co-Producers: Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz
  • Theatrical Release Date: July 29, 2011 (limited)
  • Running Time: 125 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Country: USA
  • Location: Chicago, USA
  • Language: English
  • Production Company: Kartemquin Films
  • Distribution Company: Cinema Guild
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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