“It’s Either Kill or Be Killed…”


(Ameena Matthews, violence interrupter Courtesy of Kartemquin Films )

January 26, 2012

“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.

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.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

Cadmium Spiked Inside a Tampa Lead Factory. Workers Didn’t Get Help.
For years, the company’s contracted doctor failed to flag abnormal test results and provide the required follow-up.
September 23, 2021
What Utah Police Can do to Reduce the Times They Shoot at Minorities
A decade of data clearly shows police in Utah disproportionately shoot at racial and ethnic minorities. What isn’t so clear is what to do about it.
September 22, 2021
New Data on Utah Police Shootings and Race Called ‘Extremely Uncomfortable’, ‘Disappointing’
Racial and ethnic minorities account for a third of the people shot at by Utah police over the past decade — despite these groups making up just a quarter of the population.
September 20, 2021
Most Minneapolis Voters Believe Crime Is on the Rise, New Poll Finds
An overwhelming majority of likely Minneapolis voters say crime is on the rise, a view strongly held by residents of every race, gender and age group across the city, according to a new Minnesota poll, our Local Journalism Initiative partner the Star Tribune reports.
September 18, 2021