Video: “Chicago Tonight” Goes Inside “The Interrupters”

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Following last night’s broadcast of The Interrupters on FRONTLINE, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight featured a special three-part program about the film, embedded above.

Host Carol Marin sat down with CeaseFire interrupters Ameena Matthews, Eddie Bocanegra and Cobe Williams to talk about what it was like to be followed by a film crew for an entire year while they worked to stop shootings and killings on the streets of Chicago, how the film has changed their lives and what happens when interruptions don’t work.

Eddie says the film has given him a greater platform to promote their work and the social issues they address, but that for the interrupters, it’s not about public accolades. “Most of the stuff we do goes unnoticed by the public eye,” he said.

But much of the conversation focused on questions about the relationships between law enforcement, the interrupters and the CeaseFire organization.

“I can’t tell you how many police officers I’ve talked to who just don’t buy into CeaseFire. They see it as a paramilitary group, or a vigilante group, but not a law enforcement group,” Marin said. “What do you do with that?”

“I just focus more on what we’re doing,” Cobe responded. “And that’s to save a life.”

“I don’t really have a relationship with [the police]. You don’t really see me engaging with them,” Eddie added. “They are there to do their job, and I’m there to do mine.”

Chicago Tonight‘s Phil Ponce dug deeper into the organization’s collaborations with law enforcement, talking to both former Chicago police superintendent Jody Weis and CeaseFire Illinois Director Tio Hardiman, who admitted the relationship was “a work in progress.”

“There’s always going to be a bit of tension,” Weis admits.

And in a discussion with director Steve James and co-producer Alex Kotlowitz about making the film, James recounts a tense encounter with police at a gas station that was only resolved when he took out his camera. “The camera is more powerful than an AK[47],” he recalls an interrupter named Shank saying during the incident.

If you missed The Interrupters, you can watch the full program here, and learn more about the making of the film, how CeaseFire operates and where key characters are today.

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