Steven James (director of the classic American documentary Hoop Dreams) and Alex Kotlowitz’s The Interrupters (2011) looks at the work of a group of violence preventers—the Interrupters—in Chicago. Inspired by an article on CeaseFire—the violence prevention organization the Interrupters work for—that ran in the New York Times Magazine by Alex Kotlowitz in 2004, the film follows three of CeaseFire’s violence interrupters for a year.
Dr. Larry Slutkin, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois-Chicago, created CeaseFire as a way to combat the violence epidemic that afflicted the city from a public health perspective. From the organization’s website: “We combine Science and Street Outreach to track where violence is heating up and then cool the situation down.”
In the film, the Interrupters aim to prevent violence a variety of ways: harrowingly mediating conflicts on the ground, performing community outreach endeavors, and to working individually with youth as mentors. They mention their own gang experience and resolve to engage in peaceful conflict resolution in their work. The underlying belief is that violence can be prevented through intervention—that it is learned behavior that can be influenced by individuals who are personally familiar with similar backgrounds. The film’s message—that people aren’t good and bad and that anyone, regardless of their past, is capable of change—is compelling and comes across as particularly poignant during the month of Ramadan. [Read more...]