Without question this is a FIVE STAR documentary; an inspirational, awe-inspiring film about making a difference; all the protagonists are worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. This should be required viewing for public school students, universally.
Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) and Alex Kotlowitz (“There Are No Children Here”), Oak Park, Illinois residents, have given birth to a monument, celebrating a grass -roots movement, a testimony to grabbing hold, accepting accountability, fearlessly treading in crime, gang-infested, brutal neighborhoods and changing lives one treacherous, meaningful step at a time.
The genius of the film is its lack of sensationalism; it is not a fund-raiser; poverty, welfare are ubiquitous, pervasive, inherent in their culture; killing, revenge, drugs are genetic, inherited, part of their DNA; gifted from one generation to another. The Violence Interrupters (founded by Tio Hardiman) and CeaseFire( Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist) are desperately seeking to reverse this “madness” this insidious disease, the antibiotic administered by three miraculous individuals; all who wallowed in the menacing milieu of their disenfranchised neighborhoods.
Ameena Matthews, (daughter of the iconic, incarcerated gangster, Jeff Fort) is herculean in her stubbornness, diligent, relentless in her efforts to save a teen, divorced from society; struggling to find an ounce of credibility, a sliver of dignity worth striving for, a reason to rise above the fray, exist without fighting, within the boundaries of the law. Matthews, a devout Muslim, transcended her drug-enforcer days, converting a destructive, debilitating life -style into one of messianic diligence, a selflessness, heroic in its mission.
Cobe Williams, damaged by his father’s murder, incarcerated a myriad of times, knows the streets and the bleak mentality of its residents. He speaks their language, he listens to their tribulations and is fiercely tenacious in his efforts to change, to mend. He is charismatic, shrewd, a pit bull in his efforts to cure the corruption he himself was plagued with.
Eddie Bocanegra, a convicted felon, a murderer is the most sensitive, the most wounded of the trio. His work with CeaseFire is retribution for his crime; his penance for the heinous act that can never be righted. He is an artist and teaches the curative power of artistic expression. His empathy, kindness; his assiduous devotion to young people is the corner stone of his redemption.
“The Interrupters” revolves around the four seasons in the depressed neighborhoods, projects of Chicago. With its conclusion the entire audience rose to their feet and collectively clapped and joyously hollered monumental praise for this exuberantly hopeful, overwhelming testimony , deserved lionization of the mastery of the tenacious few to touch, rejuvenate the maimed, scarred masses.