Films from Past Years/ Interruptors, The
Documentary Feature | USA | 2011 | 125 min | Website
Directed and Photographed by: Steve James
Produced by: Alex Kotlowitz and Steve James
The Interruptors tells the moving of three dedicated individuals who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they themselves once employed. These “violence interruptors” (their job title) – who have credibility on the street because of their own personal histories – intervene in conflicts before the incidents explode into violence. Their work and their insights are informed by their own journeys, which, as each of them point out, defy easy characterization.
The “violence interruptors” work for an innovative organization, CeaseFire, which is the brainchild of epidemiologist Gary Slutkin who for ten years battled the spread of cholera and AIDS in Africa. Slutkin believes that the spread of violence mimics that of infectious diseases, so the treatment should be similar: go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source.
Their work is fraught with moral quandaries. They have to step between adversaries, often people they know. They need to acknowledge people’s grievances while simultaneously pulling them back from acting on them. And on occasion, they find themselves using the very threat of violence to defuse an altercation. As they venture into their communities, they confront the importance of family, the noxious nature of poverty, and the place of race. And they do it with incredible candor and directness.