Catch-up: The Interrupters (2011)
PBS’ Frontline showed the documentary The Interrupters recently. It’s a movie that I’ve been trying to see since it premiered earlier in the year. The film focuses on Ceasefire, and Chicago organization that tries to intercede and prevent intercity violence. They do so by dispatching “Interrupters,” former gang members with street cred to spare, to talk to family and friends of victims to prevent them from retaliating. It’s dangerous and controversial work, and makes for compelling cinema.
The film follows three Interrupters over the course of a year, as they talk down revenge-minded friends and console victim’s families (including the mother of Derrion Albert, a teenager killed in a brawl that garnered international headlines). We see them succeed, and prevent shootings, and in some cases fail to reach kids. Several scenes are truly heartbreaking: an Interrupter discovering her mentee has skipped the first three weeks of school, a Mexican family camping out every single day at the grave of their teenage son.
In large part because they employ ex-cons with their own histories of violence, CeaseFire is a controversial program. What is hardly in dispute is that The Interrupters is riveting and important movie-making. Director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and his team have put together an unforgettable glimpse into the misunderstood cycle of inner-city violence.