The Interrupters

Director: Steve James
Year Released: 2011
Rating: 3.0

Sad but ultimately optimistic documentary about a project called Ceasefire (started in Chicago by Gary Slutkin) that uses former gang members and criminals to 'interrupt' future altercations between gangs and hopefully slow down the violence on the streets. Though James doesn't really address the prevalent criticisms of the program - mainly, that it doesn't work in the long-term and that there are internal management issues - he chooses, instead, to focus on the program's apparent successes. The glimpse at inner-city street life is heartbreaking and poignant, as the interrupters in question risk their own health and safety to try to make their city better and hopefully save lives. There is an element of atonement that runs through this: it's clear that all of the interrupters have regrets about their pasts and have to constantly fight their own demons, and their form of personal self-immolation is going where even the police dread going. Ameena Matthews, vibrant and personable but haunted, is one of the key figures in this, and something tells me if she can't reach these damn kids nobody can.