The Interrupters

I recommend The Interrupters as worthwhile viewing. It is a deeply moving film about CeaseFire, an organization that works to interrupt urban street violence in Chicago. All of the members working with this organization have a record of violence that contributed to their former incarceration. Reflecting on their own lives influenced their decision to embrace peace and to interrupt violence as they see it in the Chicago communities where they grew-up.

There are moments in the film, especially the last scenes, where the camera lingers on the quiet, contemplative faces of three of the film’s featured Interrupters that reminds me of my father. Like my father, they all seemed haunted by the ghosts of their respective pasts. Every night that I spent with my father was one where I saw him through the glow of late night television and always ready with a story of some horror he could recall from his youth. He told me once that when “you did as much wrong as I did, you don’t sleep easy.” Like the rape victim whose apartment my father inspected every night before she entered from her late night shift, the community work that the Interrupters perform represents an attempt to absolve themselves of their guilt for their often unspeakable crimes. I found myself pulling for their salvation as much as I did for the community they were trying to save.

You can watch the entire film for free by following the embedded link.

6 thoughts on “The Interrupters

  1. This is a powerful film. I used this film two years ago during an arts education program for 700+ HS students from our local city district. We did professional development for educators/school counselors, and workshops for the students with local CeaseFire activists. We also had the honor of meeting and working with Ameena Matthews and Eddie Bocanegra (both Ameena and Eddie are prominent in the film).

    I was so inspired by this collaborative education program that employed art (film) as the accessible medium to have healthy, space dialogue about community violence, health, and safety. This film is extremely relevant (as Chicago is in a gun violence crisis with its youths). But I should say that relevancy stretches beyond Chicago and permeates neighborhoods in cities across this nation. The narrative is poignant, heartwarming, and I think just hopeful enough to continue to ignite these kinds of CeaseFire/anti-violence movements across the country.

    Thank you for telling the power of this film. Like you, I highly recommend it.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your connection to this film. I would also imagine that Eddie was especially relevant for your engagement with the power of art given the importance he grants painting in his on-going efforts to recover and to grieve. I found him incredibly interesting. He seemed stunned, shellshocked by his own capacity to have committed violence. I would have loved to have seen how he and Ameena interacted. I imagine that they would have complemented one another. She seems to be at a different stage of recovery than Eddie and can speak about her past in a blatantly public way. From the film, it looked to me like Eddie hasn’t married or doesn’t have children, which I found very interesting and, once again, marks a contrast with Ameena. Ameena was something else! Talk about soul force.

      Have you used “What I Want My Words to do to You” with your students? I would imagine that you would get great mileage out of this film given your interests. That Eve Ensler documentary alongside Mark Salzman’s “True Notebooks” makes for a nice pairing.

      Thanks for adding your voice here. I agree with your views about the relevancy of this film for our nation’s concerns regarding (gun) violence. You know what I think the film does too? I think it makes peace advocacy cool. The Interrupters have style and swagger. Their influence on the quality and character of how peace advocacy gets represented reminded me of Marvin Gaye’s (“Inner City Blues”) and Gil Scott-Heron’s (“Winter in America”) contributions in the ’70s; definitely sermonic but not preachy. EMM

      1. Yes, yes. peace advocacy is cool! You’re so right, these “Interrupters” have a way with the youths and a way with the neighborhoods. There is a quiet respect that resonates when they walk on the scene. I was amazed how they were able to position themselves in the midst of conflict. Eddie and Ameena were in harmony. I think you’re right about Ameena being in a different healing space. I think we all are healing from something, but it did strike me that Ameena was in a different space. I think you’re right about Eddie. I found him gentle, kind, introspective. It is so difficult to place him in an act of violence, let alone murder. Our lives are complicated and youths are up against so much. What this film seemed to also portray was this authentic redemptive spirit and quality of all the advocates featured. I have not used “What I Want my Words to do to You”, but I am curious just by the title alone. Thank you for this suggested pairing with “True Notebooks”. I love how you weaved in a bit of Marvin Gaye and Gil Scott-Heron. They both stirred with words and music. They both had that cool, that style and swagger, those musings on peace.

        1. I was also moved by their ability to “position themselves in the midst of conflict”! I know people, who are extremely comfortable with conflict–this is especially true of friends who are former athletes. Sometimes we talk about their pursuit of suitable outlets for such aggression beyond athletics and while watching the film, I thought about peace advocacy as an interesting outlet for these energies.

          What was also striking to me along these lines was how interested many of those young folk on the streets were to hearing this message of peace. They seemed to find Ameena compelling, for example. They seemed to want to embrace her physically and to hear her message. So a part of the power of the Interrupters is in their ability to provide a conduit for young people to articulate their desire for intimacy and nurturing.

          Again, thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. EMM

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