More than 80 people gathered from across the Chicago area to watch Steve James’ new documentary, The Interrupters, and meet the director for a question-and-answer session at the on Sunday.
Afterward, teachers, volunteers and interested community members joined in as James lead a discussion about how working to resolve the violence can be more productive than trying to dismantle street gangs.
The movie documents a year in the life of Ceasefire Violence Interrupters, former gang members who focus on stopping the needless shootings and gang violence on the South Side of Chicago. Filmed from 2009-2010, the action coincides with a number of high-profile murders, including the killing of Derrion Albert, a Chicago high school student, whose beating death was caught on videotape that was broadcast worldwide.
James along with Gary Slutkin, founder of Ceasefire, and Frank Perez, the group's national director, were on-hand after the film to take questions from audience members about their continuing work.
“We’ve been on the wrong strategy. The violence has been mixed up in a lot of other things, but it is its own problem," said Slutkin, who is also executive director of Ceasefire. "You can reduce the violence by targeting the behavior.”
Slutkin is a research professor in epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and is a strong advocate that violence is a disease. The film urges that gang violence be treated as a public health issue.
“I have a feeling that Wilmette can be influential on the powers,” Slutkin said.
The Interrupters will be shown on PBS’s Frontline in 2012, but until then James and Ceasefire are showing the film in communities whose residents care about the issue of needless street violence.
“It was really heartening, the response,” James said. “It shines a light on a problem so many are dealing with.”
is showing The Interrupters through Thursday, with special screenings on Aug. 30--1:30, 4:20 and 7:10 p.m.--and Aug. 31--4:20 and 7:10 p.m. A showing is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sept. 1.
Aug. 30: After the 7:10 p.m. screening, producer Alex Kotlowitz and community affairs specialist Marcus MacAllister will be available for questions.
Aug. 31: After the 4:20 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. screenings, Marcus MacAllister and Zak Piper of Kartemquin Films will take questions. Kartemquin is among the documentary's backers.