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.
to rebuild it piece by 'peace'.
Steve James made a major impact in the documentary world with his 1993 film Hoop Dreams, which chronicled the lives of two high school basketball players in Chicago. James stays in the battle ground of Chicago for his latest documentary, which follows the Violence Interrupters of Chicago more volatile neighborhoods. The interrupters, which include Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra, belong to the organization called Cease Fire, which campaigns on the streets of Chicago for non-violence in the resolution of conflict, most notably between gangs. Chicago is one of the most deadly turfs in America, especially when it comes to young kids whose lives either go nowhere, or end altogether.
I guess the best way to begin would be to say that these people are now my own personal heroes. The film, which covers the circumstances found in these troubled neighborhoods is gut wrenching to witness, but at the end of the day the film is titled The Interrupters. It is about these people as much if not more than it is about the countless people who are killed every week in Chicago. Ameena, Cobe and Eddie are unique in their own ways, but each are cut from the same cloth, and that is one of a lifetime of violence in a world where dreams hardly ever to come true. Each were involved with the violence they are now trying to prevent. Cobe served time, and Eddie served 14 years for murder. It is their stories which give hope to the ones around them.
James and his crew spent a whole year following these remarkable people and for every incident they were able to successfully intervene, there are seemingly dozens of others they cannot quite get to, including the murder of more than a couple young people. It is harrowing to witness such circumstances, and difficult to envision a successful outcome for these residents, but I will be darned if the interrupters do not give it their all to do everything in their power to help make it happen. Ameena Matthews is a stronger, more determined woman than I have ever seen. This is a film that really helps to show what the problem is. The comparison it makes between violence and a disease is apt. Violence is a learned behavior and living in a neighborhood where jobs are nearly impossible to come by, it can become a disease, not a choice.
Knowing that the film is factual, that these people are real human beings makes it that more effective. The key to a good documentary is a string subject matter and this one is moving to the point of tears, tears of sorrow, but also those of joy and hope for the strength of the human spirit shown by these wonderful people. But the key to a great documentary lies in how its director is able to piece it all together and Steve James is that man, knowing exactly when to reveal to the audience each piece of the puzzle. We learn about the current for these interrupters before we learn about their past, which makes their determination and attitudes that much more impactful. The Interrupters is a great American documentary and almost certainly a lock for a nomination at this years Academy Awards, but what is more is that it is also a great American film which explores the many facets of the difficulty of living in a troubled Chicago neighborhood with no outlook up or out.