I watched a truly fantastic documentary the other night, one that I think will stay in my head for a long time.
It was directed by Steve James, the acclaimed director of the classic “Hoop Dreams,” and it’s about a fascinating group in Chicago called CeaseFire. What CeaseFire does is recruit former gang members who have been rehabilitated and are now walking the straight and narrow, and hires them as “The Interrupters,” individuals who try to stop gang violence before it happens.
“The Interrupters” spends a year in the life of CeaseFire, specifically, three of its most interesting ex-gang members. It’s a scary, fascinating, “so real it hurts” look at the enormous problem of gang violence in Chicago. We meet wonderfully strange characters with names like Flam-o and Cobe and Lil’ Mikey, and within an hour you’re rooting for them and getting mad at them as if they were members of your own family.
The sheer hopelessness of the job strikes you sometimes, but there are just enough hopeful situations that make you think these Interrupters are really making a difference (you won’t believe the progress Flam-O makes.)
We see funerals and reconciliations, and an unbelievably heart-tugging scene where a just-released felon goes back to the scene of his crime to apologize to those he victimized.
“The Interrupters” didn’t get nominated for an Oscar, but it absolutely should have. (If you don’t believe me, check out its Rotten Tomatoes Score: Of 99 critics, 98 recommend the movie.)
It pulls no punches, is funnier than you would think, and is very truthful in its look at a big problem most American cities face.
It’s available for free on PBS.org here, and it’s absolutely worth your time.
**This story cracked me up, because it brought back memories of when I worked at a video store and used to give my friends “free” movie rentals all the time.
However, my boss never went to this extreme. A 19-year-old Subway sandwich shop employee was arrested for giving his buddies subs for $1.50 each. His boss actually caught him on video surveillance, and had the dude arrested.
That’s harsh. I hope those were some good meatball subs he gave ’em.
**Finally, a beautiful coda to send you off with, as the Whitney Houston news parade should finally slow down now that she’s been memorialized at a funeral, and placed in the ground.
I heard this on the radio the other day and was blown away, then found it on YouTube. It’s her isolated vocal track to the hit song “How Will I Know.” Listen to it for a few minutes, and be amazed at the beauty of a human voice… Damn, it’s a shame we’ll never hear it again.