"Interrupters" film looks at stopping city violence

Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:39pm EDT
 

By Andrea Burzynski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A woman in a headscarf runs into the street to calm a crowd before violence erupts. "This is what a war zone looks like," a voiceover declares.

But the "war zone" in the new documentary movie "The Interrupters" isn't Iraq or Afghanistan. It is Chicago's South Side, where some neighborhoods are stricken with violence.

The documentary, which opened late last month in New York, follows three former criminals -- Cobe, Eddie, and Ameena -- as they use their status as community insiders to "interrupt" conflicts before blood is shed. They are all part of CeaseFire, a Chicago-based anti-violence organization.

For co-producers Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz, the perils of life in inner city Chicago are not new terrain. James, who also directed the film, found himself revisiting "the same worlds" of his award-winning 1994 documentary, "Hoop Dreams."

Likewise, 20 years after Kotlowitz wrote his bestseller "There Are No Children Here," which told of two brothers growing up in Chicago's government-subsidized housing, the journalist didn't find much change, either.

"Since the book came out, I've lost four kids who I knew -- all of them were murdered," he told Reuters. "Two others who I knew are serving time for murder. It's troubled me, unsettled me, perplexed me."

The new documentary shows the grim consequences of the violence that CeaseFire's interrupters try to prevent.

One mother with sons in rival gangs approaches CeaseFire to help reach out to her sons. Eddie, one of the interrupters who served 14 years in prison for a murder he committed as a teenager, mentors a young girl whose brother died in her arms.   Continued...

 
<p>Producer Alex Kotlowitz (L) and Producer/Director Steve James in the film "The Interrupters". REUTERS/Aaron Wickenden/Kartemquin Films</p>