DVD Review – The Interrupters
The Interrupters is a look at gang culture and inner city violence, but is this documentary gripping or boring, Mike Williams investigates
TITLE – THE INTERRUPTERS YEAR – 2011 DIRECTOR – STEVE JAMES CAST – AMEENA MATTHEWS, JEFF FORT, EDDIE BOCANEGRA
Director Steve James guides us through a lengthy documentary (just tipping the two-hour mark) as we witness the struggle and ever-present danger that is gang culture on the streets of Chicago. Following a small group of community workers that include reformed gang members as well as current leaders, The Interrupters possesses an undoubted realism comparable to TV shows such as The Wire and The Shield. By no means is this to trivialize their roles: real-life characters, like Ameena for example, exude all the gritty sass of said familiar fictional roles, but also have a raw intensity that only comes from documenting reality.
The purpose of the organisation is to prevent and reduce the number of crime related incidents within an utterly hostile gang culture that exists on what seems like every street corner. The fact there are children shooting each other over the pettiest of turf wars is a problem often described within the film as a State of Emergency.
The film spans a year in the lives of a selection of workers within the community as well as the reprobates they are seeking to rehabilitate. James manages to capture the genuine, humane side of everyone involved, which is – at times – harshly juxtaposed with the mindless blood-shed over the most minor of disputes: turf wars, disrespect, even looking at one another the wrong way is a catalyst for deadly hostility.
As the documentary unfolds, we begin to realise that there is in fact a strong sense of togetherness and community that lies just beneath the surface of the danger on the streets: family, love and pride all form the basis for the lives of a majority of the youngsters featured; some not even old enough to attend high school.
The interesting aspect here is seeing the stages of how the teens reform and improve their lives; it’s a little up-and-down as some reoffend before realising the pointlessness of their anti social behaviour, and for the most part the subjects rehabilitate at an inspiring rate. Interaction between these kids brought up to fight from birth and the former gang members such as Ameena and her Interrupter colleagues – Eddie Bocanegra and Cobe Williams – stifles depending on who we are following in a particular scene: Ameena is particularly articulate and forceful in her approach, whereas Eddie is less intense, more chilled out and willing to listen; with Cobe almost taking a backseat when conversing with pent-up youths seeking immediate revenge on a rival gang. What this does is to unbalance the effect of what these noteworthy individuals are achieving, as well as illustrate the difficulties and volatility of the situation: it feels like an ongoing battle and impossible struggle to get through to these individuals, yet when they get results it feels all the more satisfying.
The Interrupters is a very inspiring and emotional journey that has moments when it pulls at the heart-strings, shocks with the personal stories revealed and saddens with the repercussions gang hatred for one another. The devastatingly real nature is documented well, and is only scuppered by a slightly long duration that would have benefited from a sharper edit and in places as some segments feel a little bogged down pace-wise.
[starreview tpl=16 size='30']
THE INTERRUPTERS IS RELEASED ON DVD IN THE UK ON 5TH DECEMBER 2011 BY DOGWOOF
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