I haven’t yet had a chance to see the new documentary The Interrupters, about former gang members in Chicago who have tasked themselves with curbing gang violence on that city’s streets, but it’s on my list to watch as soon as it’s out on DVD. In the meanwhile, if you happen to live in Chicago, the film is screening there for the next two weeks, following a limited engagement in New York City.
The Interrupters was directed by Steve James, who you may remember as the director of the award-winning doc Hoop Dreams, along with Alex Kotlowitz, a Chicago-based journalist who has written for The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. The film follows a group of self-proclaimed “violence interruptors,” who, through a nonprofit group called CeaseFire, attempt to prevent murders by intervening in street-level altercations.
Among these, the ersatz star of the film is Ameena Matthews, a former gang member herself and the daughter of one of Chicago’s most notorious gang leaders. Through her efforts to engage and educate some of Chicago’s most at-risk youth, as well as those of the other interrupters, we see a group of people working and risking their lives to turn the tide of violence.
You can read more about the film here, and check out an interview with Matthews, James and Kotlowitz here on NPR’s Fresh Air.