Published May 06, 2011They were once gang-bangers. They were teenagers when they gunned down enemies on the streets of inner city Chicago, often over a careless word or the wrong look. They served time and grew up behind bars. Now, they return to their old neighbourhoods to stop the bloody vendettas that poison young lives and perpetuate the cycle of violence.
Steve James (who directed the Oscar-nominated Hoop Dreams) follows three Violence Interruptors over the course of a year as they negotiate with headstrong young men and women to lay their guns down and stop the bloodshed. They don't hold back and speak in hard, frank terms.
Ammena, Cobe and Eddie grew up in a spiral of drugs, sexual abuse and poverty. The program they work for, CeaseFire, views inner city violence as a virus, in that the disease must be snuffed out at the source. They literally stop fights on the street, knock on the doors of those they counsel and at the darkest moments, attend funerals. They risk their lives, as we see in one tearful scene where an Interruptor lies in a hospital bed after getting shot in the back.
Though running at 142 minutes, The Interrupters is one lean, unapologetic film — there isn't a wasted frame. It's gritty and harsh, but also inspiring. There's nothing sentimental here — no voiceover to reveal someone's inner feelings. It's all on screen. This is one of the best films of this festival. (Kartemquin Films)