“I Need Them and They Need Me”

The Interrupters, an intimate journey across the violent landscape of our cities through the eyes of those working to sow peace and security, airs tonight on FRONTLINE. Check your local listings.

“I was a bit of a cynic at first,” admits writer Alex Kotlowitz about the Chicago-based violence prevention program CeaseFire, which he first wrote about in 2008. “One of the things I really admired about it was that it takes the moral judgment out of the equation.”

Kotlowitz, whose 2008 profile of CeaseFire was the inspiration for The Interrupters, which airs on FRONTLINE tonight, and Ameena Matthews, a violence interrupter profiled in it, were both on The Takeaway yesterday to discuss the film and how they encountered CeaseFire.

A key part of CeaseFire’s operations are the violence interrupters who work to mediate conflicts and talk individuals down from retaliatory violence. Often former gang leaders themselves, these interrupters, like Ameena, hold some influence in the communities in which they work.

“Chicago may look pretty big, but it’s a very small town,” she tells John Hockenberry. “So there’s somebody who knows somebody who knows Ameena.” She admits she’s not “bulletproof,” but knowing the community helps a great deal when she tries to mediate a dispute.

“I need them and they need me. And I know that if I continue to educate them to get them buy into the camp that you don’t need to kill anybody to resolve a conflict, I’m gonna stay around,” she says. “I need to continue furthering their education to make sure that they have something to put in their hands in place of a gun. Because these guys … can’t make their way if they’re in the prison system.”

Listen to the full audio interview below and watch a trailer for the film here.

Bonus: The Interrupters: Heroes in an Urban War Zone

“Don’t see The Interrupters out of some grudging civic duty,” writes Time magazine’s Richard Corliss. “See it for the beautiful and horrifying people, for the despair and the against-all-odds uplift.”

blog comments powered by Disqus

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.



Frontline Journalism Fund

Supporting Investigative Reporting

Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
PBSCPBMacArthur FoundationPark FoundationFord Foundationwyncote

Privacy Policy   Journalistic Guidelines   PBS Privacy Policy   PBS Terms of Use   Corporate Sponsorship
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.