Ameena Matthews and others try to stop urban violence in south Chicago.
THE INTERRUPTERS (Steve James). 125 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (October 7) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox; director will attend the 7 pm opening-night screening. See Times. Rating: NNN
In The Interrupters, documentarian Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Stevie) chronicles a year in the neighbourhoods of south Chicago, where an organization called CeaseFire does its best to defuse street hostilities by literally interrupting confrontations before they escalate into violence.
Most of CeaseFire is made up of reformed gang members who know what it's like to go off in someone's face. It's noble work that comes with considerable risk, and there are moments when The Interrupters feels like a real-life version of The Wire, with weary heroes trudging forever uphill to make their ugly world a slightly better place.
The problem is that it's a very repetitive film. For a full year, the CeaseFire members are shown doing exactly the same thing over and over: stemming violence when they can, working with teens who are willing to listen and attending the funerals of victims they weren't able to save.
But James never really digs into the social and cultural factors that have created the environment CeaseFire is trying to change - the hopelessness, the lack of decent employment, the posturing machismo that demands bloody reprisal for the slightest hint of disrespect.
A longer version that played the festival circuit reportedly addressed some of that, but this cut doesn't, and that's a problem that becomes increasingly hard to ignore as the movie goes on.
Hoop Dreams (1994), Stevie (2002) and Reel Paradise (2005) also screen this week at the Lightbox in the Steve James: Documenting Dreams series.