Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Interrupters (2011)

Directed by: Steven James
Staring: Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams

This powerful and thought-provoking documentary follows the lives of the "violence interrupters" during a one year span in the inner-city ghettos of Chicago. The violence interrupters work for the community outreach group, "Cease Fire." This non-profit group has a theory that the plague of violence is similar to that of a communicable disease, therefore the treatment should be the same by going after the most "infected." Treating violence the same way you would treat a public health issue takes the criminal element out of the equation, and instead focuses on trying to stop the violence before it erupts.

A key player for "Cease Fire" is Violence Interrupter Ameena Mathews. A former drug runner, and daughter of an infamous Chicago Gang Leader, Matthews has overcome many adversities in her personal life; yet she forges on, trying to make a difference in someone's life. Matthews is shown giving "tough love" to an eighteen year old woman who has been in and out of correctional facilities. A powerful speech given by Matthews at the funeral of a youth killed in a drive-by shooting shows she is tired of seeing life wasted by senseless violence.  What is learned about "Cease Fire" is that the group gets results in stopping the spread of violence, and turning lives in the right direction. Interrupter Cobe Williams gets personally involved in the life of a seventeen year old boy with a violent past. After the boy has just been released from a youth correctional facility, Williams takes the boy to meet the victims of the crime that put him in jail. By the end of the film, we learn that the boy has made a complete turn for the better; he is even thinking about becoming an interrupter himself.

 What really get's the attention of the viewer is the segment of the film which shows the (now well publicized) video taped beating of sixteen year old honor student, Derrion Albert. The video of this brutal beating gained national media attention as it went viral almost immediately last year. It took a brutal killing to bring to light that the violence in urban communities like Chicago has turned these areas literally into war zones. Director Steven James (Hoop Dreams 1994) doesn't use a bunch of "pomp and circumstance" to get his message across in this film, relying instead on the cold-hard facts that are presented in the narrative.

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