The Interrupters tells the moving and surprising story of three dedicated individuals who work to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they themselves once employed. These “violence interrupters” (their job title) – who have credibility on the street because of their own personal histories – intervene in conflicts before the incidents explode into violence. Their work and their insights are informed by their own journeys, which, as each of them point out, defy easy characterization.
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 death of Derrion Albert, a Chicago High School student whose death was caught on videotape.
The “violence interrupters” work for an innovative organization, CeaseFire, which is the brainchild of epidemiologist Gary Slutkin who for ten years battled the spread of cholera and AIDS in Africa. Slutkin believes that the spread of violence mimics that of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar: go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source.
Their work is fraught with moral quandaries. They have to step between adversaries, often people they know. They need to acknowledge people’s grievances while simultaneously pulling them back from acting on them. And on occasion, they find themselves using the very threat of violence to defuse an altercation. As they venture into their communities, they confront the importance of family, the noxious nature of poverty, and the place of race. And they do it with incredible candor and directness.
The Interrupters was produced by Alex Kotlowitz and Steve James and directed by Steve James.
*** Steve Floyd has been a role model for many urban youth, including Cobe Williams, one of the violence interrupters featured in this movie. Originally from Chicago’s South Side, Steve now calls Minneapolis home. He is fearless and committed, both as a professional photographer and in his work disrupting cycles of violence. We were honored to have him facilitate a community discussion last year after a stabbing death occurred just steps from The Third Place Gallery. Steve was instrumental in bringing The Interrupters to the Twin Cities for a 10-day run at the Lagoon Theatre, and is bringing it back for a special one-night screening at The Third Place. With his insight into gang culture, Steve has a rare ability to diffuse tense situations and to help communities understand the behavior in their own neighborhoods. We are thrilled to welcome him back to moderate community discussion surrounding this important film.