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Eddie Bocanegra, Ameena Matthews, Ricardo Williams, Tio Hardiman, Gary Slutkin

The Interrupters tells the moving and surprising stories of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. From acclaimed director Steve... read more read more... James and bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz, this film is an unusually intimate journey into the stubborn persistence of violence in our cities. Shot over the course of a year out of Kartemquin Films, The Interrupters captures a period in Chicago when it became a national symbol for the violence in our cities. During that period, the city was besieged by high-profile incidents, most notably the brutal beating of Derrion Albert, a Chicago High School student, whose death was caught on videotape. The film's main subjects work for an innovative organization, CeaseFire, which believes that the spread of violence mimics the spread of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar: go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source. --(C) Official Site

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82% liked it

5,045 ratings


100% liked it

84 critics

Unrated, 2 hr. 5 min.

Directed by: Steve James

Release Date: July 29, 2011

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DVD Release Date: February 13, 2012

Stats: 192 reviews


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Flixster Reviews (192)

  • March 20, 2012
    A powerful look at the epidemic of violence in Chicago. Director Steve James is right on the front lines of a war that Americans do their best to ignore. There are no gimmicks to be found here. Just a raw look at those doing their best to make a difference in a city beset by bedlam.
  • February 24, 2012
    The Interrupters blends the 'fly on the wall' documentary style with the history lesson perfectly. This is a very intelligent, unbiased and pretty unique documentary about gangs, youth and violence of the deteriorating suburbs of Chicago. The Interrupters capture real people and ... read morereal events quite exceptionally, there is always the argument that as soon as you start documenting something or filming it, it has changed from what it was/is/will become. This doesn't seem to be the case here, people reactions seem completely natural, when you see the desperation, anger and frustration from so many of the people involved, you just know it's not for the camera. It's not just the 'easy' or more obvious things we see here either, typically when you point a camera you can get arguments, fights, tears etc but here we see remorse, apology and regret - and not because it makes them look self righteous either. Many of the scenes are shocking to people who live outside this world but there is a lot of heart in this film, a real inside view amids the often sensationalised and inaccurate tabloid news stories. The Interrupters are an amazing group of people, maybe the cure the area needs and maybe a formula every problem area could learn from as long as it's not exploited. A great documentary.
  • fb619846742
    February 24, 2012
    A deeply depressing, saddening documentary concerning the violence on the streets of Chicago, and how a group of former gang-members give their best efforts to destroy the "disease" that infects the culture they were once apart of. Steve James, no stranger to creating relentlessl... read morey nihilistic backdrops that his characters do not realize they can not get out of (seen also in the devastating "Hoop Dreams"), paints a vivid, somber portrait here. It is definitely difficult not to be in awe in this group of individuals trying to stop the chaos, as the genuine concern and sympathy to stop others from going down the same road they did is shown in outstanding detail. Quite simply, this is one of the better documentaries put out in quite some time, matching up against 2010's "Exit at the Gift Shop". It is a very tough watch though, as life on the street is not fun to see and the senseless, arrogant, misinformed young people that throw their lives away for what they confuse to be for a good cause (loyalty, vengeance, etc...) is downright sickening. But it is a story that needs to be seen, heard, and talked about, and James impeccably crafts this - it will not leave you quickly.
  • February 19, 2012
    a powerful doc from the director of 'hoop dreams,' the film shows the work of violence interrupters, former gang members and ex cons who intervene in disputes and try to diffuse the situations, in the wake of an unprecedented level of youth violence in chicago. kids of 15 and ev... read moreen younger dying in the streets over perceived slights in an endless cycle of paybacks and reprisals, heaps of stuffed animals at death site memorials, raw emotions of family and friends and their interactions with the people who try to break the chains of gang violence. very emotional and inspiring to see good results in some cases. this is streaming on pbs in the US for a limited time:
  • March 15, 2013
    Even with the precarious message of hope that the heartrending documentary "The Interrupters" delivers, from watching the news it is painfully clear that violence is still a huge problem plaguing the youth of Chicago since the release of this potent film.

    Take away those news ... read morecameras 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.
  • February 6, 2013
    The Interrupters bares more than a passing resembles to the HBO TV series The Wire - except it's a documentary and it's all true. At nearly three hours, this searing, immersive documentary looks at a group called CeaseFire, an organization in Chicago set up by a doc... read moretor who has theorised that the cycle of violence spreads like a virus, and that preventative measures might be better than, for example, increasing police. Some areas in Chicago have exceptionally high rates of violent crime and statistically a young person is more likely to die from a shooting or stabbing than from anything else. "The Interrupters" refers to the brave group of people, all of whom who have grown up in Chicago and whom in their past have experienced first hand the drugs, violence, and incarceration that practically seems predetermined in some areas, and who now talk to individuals and groups and act as peacekeepers, or, where necessary, 'interrupters' literally putting themselves in the midst of dangerous scenes to stop violence escalating, and to prevent retaliatory violence and shootings. The documentary concentrates on three of these interrupters and throughout the film details their pasts and what they now do in CeaseFire. Often times their role might just be to listen to what people are saying, or to calm them down, and sometimes they might have to be much more involved. We get to follow some of the people they are working with or the groups they are involved with, and they run the gamut from working one-to-one to get estranged brothers talking to themselves and their mother, through to work with classes of schoolchildren on anti-violence projects, through to speaking at funerals to beg for the violence to stop, or to ensure the people they're with make a promise to not retaliate - all of which has varying but absolutely noticeable effect in terms of violence committed. One especially powerful moment shows one of the interrupters literally breaking up a fight in the moment rocks are thrown - surely preventing murder on the streets in broad daylight. Though clocking in at nearly three hours, there's barely a frame that seems misplaced and if anything the film could have been even more exhaustive (we barely see for example, the involvements of police or government aside from a few news clips and archive footage) though this may have been at the expensive of the personal stories, all of which are touching. The Interrupters themselves should be seen as nothing less than heroes; their work is valuable and certainly saves lives.
  • fb511192930
    December 27, 2011
    Duke's wake broke any chance of me not crying while watching this documentary because the emotion of his girlfriend speaking in his behalf. She is the heart, the essence of the ripple effect this violence causes to the families and loved ones of the fallen. The work of The Inter... read morerupters is sometimes not rewarded with immediate success but they feel this undying passion to deviate these young kids from seeking revenge for their fallen family members and friends.

    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.
  • March 10, 2013
    The Interrupters forgoes the intimate personalization of its subjects that made James' previous work Hoop Dreams so special, and the result is revealing but ultimately bland and dawdling look at gang violence in Chicago.
  • January 3, 2013
    This is a brilliant documentary from Steve James who also made the great "Hoop Dreams". "The Interrupters" is about a group of intelligent individuals Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra who look back on their past experiences and to try and steer young men and wom... read moreen in the right direction. Steer those away from the street life and violence. To be honest I didn't really care about the ongoing violence that plagues America today but cared deeply more for Interrupters Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra who try to help others who come from hard economic upbrinings. To really put a positive effect in their communities and for the better.

    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.
  • April 16, 2012
    Good...very good...probably would have rated it higher (and many have) had I not watched five seasons of The Wire, which portrayed this random senseless violence on almost every episode...that woman was a miracle worker...a saint...

Critic Reviews

Chris Vognar
December 8, 2011
Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News

Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra used to instigate Chicago street violence. Now they live for nipping it in the bud, block by treacherous block. Full Review

Liam Lacey
October 7, 2011
Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail

Where James's film excels is as direct experiential cinema -- without narration, onscreen interviews or acknowledgment of the presence of the camera -- it is an intensely dramatic window into a world. Full Review

Peter Howell
October 6, 2011
Peter Howell, Toronto Star

A sobering but not hopeless look at how the Windy City is attempting to turn around a rising tide of street shooting, through the work of a unique group called CeaseFire. Full Review

Tom Long
September 16, 2011
Tom Long, Detroit News

There's no doubt The Interrupters do some good; but there's also no doubt the problem they're facing is enormous. Full Review

Stephanie Merry
September 16, 2011
Stephanie Merry, Washington Post

Realistically inspiring and, thankfully, not overly dramatized. Full Review

Wesley Morris
September 15, 2011
Wesley Morris, Boston Globe

The immediacy and caprice of violence in "The Interrupters'' are just as strong as in nearly every documentary I've seen about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Full Review

Moira MacDonald
September 8, 2011
Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times

Through understanding and fearlessness, this brave trio shows us, the world can be changed, tiny step by tiny step. Full Review

Walter V. Addiego
September 1, 2011
Walter V. Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle

"The Interrupters" is an intense and chilling documentary about peacekeeping troops in a war zone. Full Review

Peter Rainer
August 27, 2011
Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

In the end, statistics are of less moment to this movie than the case-by-case personal successes that, in some cases, are emotionally overwhelming. Full Review

Lisa Kennedy
August 26, 2011
Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post

Tense, moving, and, at times brain-draining. Full Review

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