The Interrupters Reviews
Take away those news cameras and wait for the police presence to retreat(who in the documentary are best viewed as outsiders by people in the neighborhood), life goes on and people die which is where the interrupters of Cease Fire Illinois come in, as we get a streel level view over the period of a year in Chicago. They are all former convicts and reformed gangbangers who speak from experience in their role as mediator, counselor, mentor and referee, as an added form of penance, with otherwise their lives being back on track. The focus in the documentary is on Eddie Bocanegra, Ameena Matthews and Cobe Williams who ironically lives out in the country. Basically, aside from directly intervening in violent acts(one scene involves a fight outside of a Cease Fire office with people too aggravated to notice they are being filmed), they seek to stop violence from happening before it has a chance to escalate and most admirably to change the way people think, starting with speaking to students who often feel they do not have a future with Bocanegra going one step further by sharing his artwork with them.
The head of The Interrupters program went to visit and Interrupter of his in the hospital who had been shot in the back and ankle and he was trying so hard to keep composed when visiting him in the hospital. It wasn't for any other reason than t"they didn't know him" so they shot him while he was working with some of the kids he does know. They put themselves on the front lines of an epidemic of violence and they know they could die at any moment.
There is this candid interview with Ameena Matthews's(one of the interrepters) husband where he describes how fearless she is by saying "she would go face-to-face with a lion and wouldn't back down." Her life and what she does now has made her a fearless activist to stop the violence in the streets of Chicago for peace and that is worth more to her than her own life. It is gorgeous to watch what these people do to, to be a grain of thought in the minds of people who want to kill, to stop that line of thinking. Their purpose and cause is their redemption from their own past lives of crime by stopping others from go down the paths they went.
Their work is tough though, Flamo one of the people they wanted to stop from retaliating was filled with such anger and sadness, he was like a brick wall but when they interrupted his verbal tirade aimed at the people who killed his friend by offering to take him out to lunch, it diffused him and it was amazing to watch. I could feel the tension permeating off of him and could see the blood lust in his eyes to avenge his fallen comrade but when they offered him a peaceful lunch and cooled him down and took him to one of their "Ceasefire" meetings his eyes widened and he just listened to what they had to say.
This documentary is incredibly good and its relevance is not just in Chicago but worldwide as a message of peace even amidst a place where the violence seems ceaseless, there are people willing to talk a man with a gun down and out of causing violence. Please, watch this documentary.
The biggest moments is when Interrupters Cobie Williams helps another man named Flamo. Flamo comes from a rough neighbourhood, has done jail time, has four kids and sadly sells drugs on the side. There is a scene when Flamo is pissed off because an incident he tells to Williams about his mom. Williams tells Flamo he can turn his life around. Flamo doesn't want to listen but there is an inner part of him that wants to listen and in one of the great scenes is later seen being very happy working at a real job. It may not be the best job in the world but it beats hustling, getting in to trouble or possibly being killed. Flamo is a character I cared for deeply.
The hardest scenes for me to watch is between Ameena Matthews and a young teenage girl who she is trying desperately to help. Ameena somewhat fails but there is a revealing moment where she knows that the same teenage girl is one day going to be Ameena's age wishing she had someone who cared to steer in the right direction life. The teenage girl doesn't see it but eventually that moment will catch up to her.
It's very difficult for me to put the rest of the picture into understanding words. That's just how powerful this documentary is because each scene was watching a revealing discovery. The real honest truth about life in society. "The Interrupters" is not about controversial race issues or stereotypical elements that is constantly shown on TV but more focused on that one glimmer of hope and that one glimmer of life. Helping those and seeing those who were troubled working and contributing to life. This is the greatness of this picture this is what imo Steve James set out to do and he has done so with great empathy.
*Note* I didn't talk about Eddie Bocanegra who is just as important. A man who is really a leader teaching to young kids, to paint, to be happy and caring in the classroom. Bocanegra has also done time but that doesn't stop him from trying to accomplish his dream. To help the next generation so they don't suffer from the ongoings of violence.
Ex-gang members hit the streets of Chicago to prevent altercations before they start. Some really amazing human beings going above and beyond. What was happening in Chicago at that time was so sad and unbelievable but to see what these individuals are trying to do is truely inspiring. Loved it. Hope it gets more recognition. Oscar nomination even. It is a credit to the filmmakers that they got all their subjects to be on camera and be so frank with thier feelings. It really gets to you. See it if you can.
The result is a powerful movie about a group of brave and motivated souls trying to rescue violence-plagued communities in Chicago from their ongoing cycle of tragedy. These "violence interrupters," as they are called, step in and start dialoguing with people who have, themselves, been subject to some kind of injury, be it a beating, a robbery, or a family member/friend who has been killed. In this way, they try to force a moment of reflection, or pause, that just might prevent a retaliatory act of violence. These amazing activists are all, themselves, former gang members and criminals who have done jail time and emerged from their pasts with a desire to better the world.
We watch as the three main interrupter subjects - Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra - operate under the direction of Tio Hardiman, who runs CeaseFire (now known as Cure Violence), the organization which employs them, and who is, himself, a former gang member. Navigating different Chicago neighborhoods, each painstakingly labors to save people from their own (very human) desire to exact retribution on others who have done them wrong. I was amazed, watching, at the amount of personal one-on-one time these courageous folk were willing to spend to reach out and (maybe) prevent violence. It's heartbreaking work, and only they could do it, since only they have the credibility in these neighborhoods to lead these discussions. Whatever violence or crime Ameena, Cobe, Eddie, Tio and others committed in the past (and given the environments in which they came of age, it's hard to blame them), they have more than made up for it with the work they are doing now. These are the kinds of people who deserve a Noble Peace Prize.
My kudos to James and his crew for making yet another riveting and moving film. In fact, the film is so powerful that it has even led Rahm Emanuel to allocate funding for CeaseFire, in spite of the reservations that some police officers have about working with ex-felons. The statistics apparently validate the effectiveness of this program, as Gregg Bernstein, Baltimore State's Attorney, told us at the screening (since he was the one leading the Q&A). I'm sure it's not a cure-all, and the program doesn't address the roots of crime (which isn't its purpose), but anything that prevents further violence is a net positive, as far as I'm concerned. So see the film, if you can, and spread the word.