film review – THE INTERRUPTERS

With his earlier documentary Hoop Dreams, director Steven James crafted one of the most compelling and emotionally resonant docs of all time. James returns to the inner-city streets of Chicago with The Interrupters, a documentary no less emotionally or intellectually compelling than Hoop Dreams, yet infinitely more urgent in what it has to say. Profiling a group of conflict mediators known as “Violence Interrupters,” the film spends a year in the life of ex-cons turned counselors determined to end the heartbreaking cycle of violence in Chicago. The film’s refreshing candor is balanced by the bleak brutality of violence in Chicago, making for an emotional tempest that humanizes the people often portrayed by the media as savages. Employed by the non-profit organization Cease Fire, Violence Interrupters are like missionaries dispatched to plague-ridden neighborhoods infected with the deadly disease of unchecked rage that leads to beatings, stabbings, shootings and murder. James’s portrait of the men and women who jump into volatile environments moments before the eruption of violence is harrowing and inspiring. The Interrupters can be difficult at times to watch, because it offers a glimpse at a grim reality that exists in this country. At the same time, this is a film that serves as a reminder that redemption is possible, that each of us can overcome the worst of our deeds and emerge as better human beings. It is a film that proves that when hope is merged with action, things can change.

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