Film Reviews

Review: ‘The Interrupters’

Hot Docs 2016

Courtesy of Hot Docs

The Interrupters
(USA, 125 min; 2011)
Dir. Steve James
Programme: Outstanding Achievement Award Retrospective

After the explosive reception of Hoop Dreams it was perhaps inevitable that Steve James’ subsequent works would play under mainstream media’s radar. Yet in some ways his 2011 film The Interrupters is a more powerful work than his acclaimed basketball drama, no small feat for even this extraordinary talent.

Set in his native Chicago, James’ film traces a group of former gang members who intercede through outreach, trying to find common ground among combatants in the tough streets of the South Side. We meet some truly fascinating characters, including the seemingly fearless Ameena Mathews who is a kind of gang royalty, turning her prestige and power into talking sense to a younger generation. Her decision, which is one shared by other veterans of Chicago street life, to “interrupt” moments of violence and sociopathic behaviour, is one made with moral courage, backed up by prestige.

Over a year, James captures the truly intimate moments the Interrupters have within their community. It’s a morally complex film about a morally complex place, a film sensitive to the community it’s documenting while showcasing a way forward that may not be easy but surely seems better than the alternative
Given the continued spate of killings taking place at a rapid rate in the U.S.’ inner cities, the film’s message and participants remain as vital as ever, their Sisyphean task no less noble. Moving, heartbreaking yet intensely hopeful, The Interrupters is a world-class feat of journalism and documentary craft.

The Interrupters screens:
-Friday, April 30 at Hart House at 11:30 AM

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit for more information.