The Interrupters, 2011.
Directed by Steve James.
Starring Eddie Bocanegra, Tio Hardiman, Ameena Matthews, Gary Slutkin and Ricardo “Cobe” Williams.
A documentary on three violence interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed.
Chicago has had a long history of crime. From the early 20th Century days of Al Capone to the current gang problems in the city. Just like any other major city in America, gang violence is a major concern to the community. So much so, that some ex members of the gangs have vowed to try and stop the violence once and for all. The Chicago based organization known as Ceasefire has a goal to stop the gang violence completely by interrupting potentially violent situations, that could results in shootings and killings.
The 2011 documentary film, The Interrupters, shows the harsh reality of the streets of Chicago. We are introduced to some of the key members of Ceasefire, including Ameena Matthews, daughter of notorious gang leader Jeff Fort. Matthews entered the illegal life in the same way as her father, but managed to leave it, finding solace in the Islamic religion. She understands the gang lifestyle and uses her connection with the gangs to try and steer them away from the path of an early grave.
The city of Chicago is shown as a city of rising anger with fight’s breaking out in the open and innocent people getting caught in the deadly crossfire. At one point, we witness one gang member beat a younger rival around the face with a lump of concrete. The reason? Just a war of words going out of hand and into a fist. As another scene unfolds involving Ameena lecturing a large gathering of gang members, I started to realise how brave the cameraman actually was throughout this whole film.
As the film progresses, we are shown a select few from the organization, all of whom have had a darker past. There is struggle to control the violence, there are happy moments of them finally living a normal lifestyle and there is also some very bleak shots of tribute sites for innocent bystanders killed in the violence. Although there is an overlying feeling of inevitability for most of the people they are trying to help.
The Interrupters is a very brave and hard hitting documentary that isn’t afraid to get up close with its subject matter. It’s compelling from the start and never slows its pace, even during the talking head segments.
Will Preston is a freelance writer from Portsmouth. He writes for various blogs (including his own website) and makes short films.