“It’s Either Kill or Be Killed…”

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“Really what’s going on out there is it’s either kill or be killed. … With the high-risk population between 16 and 25 that we deal with, they’re in defense mode. They feel like, you know what, it’s a code of honor. …  And what our goal is, and my goal is, is to change their mindset that if you do have a conflict, you don’t have to kill anybody to resolve it. You can use communication to do that.” — Ameena Matthews

Last night, filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and “violence interrupter” Ameena Matthews were on Greater Boston, discussing their new documentary, The Interrupters, which will air on FRONTLINE on Feb. 14 at 9 pm (check local listings).

Shot over the course of a year in Chicago, the film follows Ameena and two other interrupters, Eddie Bocanegra and Cobe Williams, as they attempt to intervene before situations turn violent: two brothers threatening to shoot each other; an angry teenage girl just home from prison; a young man heading down a warpath of revenge.

Ameena tells host Jared Bowen that her past gives her a special credibility in the community. “[At] 16 and older, I was out on the streets,” she explains. “And I did pretty much the same things that these guys and girls are trying to emulate, except for I didn’t murder anyone.”

Watch a preview of The Interrupters, which Roger Ebert named as his favorite documentary of 2011.

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