A couple weekends ago, I went down to Columbia, Mo., home of the Missouri Tigers aka my alma mater and the True/False documentary film festival. This isn’t my first time back there since I graduated a few years ago. I went back to Columbia for a football game last fall. It was okay, but the whole experience made me feel ancient. It was the same old, same old, same sorority girls celebrating their 21st birthdays in skimpy dresses and teetering stilettos, same wasted bros at the bars, etc. etc.
This time I was looking to be inspired and to come back home with something to think about.
Some documentaries can do that. Some can’t. Documentary is a very tough medium, me thinks. Sometimes it’s a good story, but not a good documentary; that was the case for most of the movies I saw. Sometimes it’s a good story, but just okay enough and pretty good, but not inspirational.
And sometimes, it’s not even freaking a documentary, as was the case with Troll Hunter. Awesome CGI, but definitely NOT a documentary. (Sorry if I ruined it for anyone...)
You’re lucky if you see one that really floors you, as this one did.
“In Chicago, an experimental program attempts to change the way we impact urban violence.”
First things first, this film was looooooong. But that’s because it covers a whole year of violence in Chicago, and that is a lot to cover. A lot of violence, and a lot of deaths; way too many deaths.
Of course it hit home because I live, love, breathe Chicago. I don’t live in this part of Chicago. But this is still my city, and every report of another death, especially when it’s a kid, hurts us. It hurts their families and their communities more. All we can ask ourselves is “why are parts of this city so violent?”
Because it’s a disease, the Interrupters say. They believe violence is learned behavior that needs to be intercepted like any other disease. Or, interrupted. This film follows them throughout a year as they try to do that. Most of the Interrupters are ex-gang leaders who have served hard time for drug possession and attempted murder. They return the communities where they were raised to try to turn things around. They reach out to anyone and everyone who is being affected by violence. Maybe someone’s son has been shot. Maybe they were shot. The Violence Interrupters offer support and try to stop revenge and vengeance for the violence and deaths that have already occurred. They aren’t police, and they don’t care about gang activity, as long as people aren’t killing each other.
It looks like the scariest, most dangerous job someone could have. The movie does show one Interrupter who is hospitalized because he was shot when he was trying to resolve a conflict. Jeez. What if your job put you in the middle of gang fire. Can you imagine?
All I can say is see this movie. If it’s coming to a festival near you, see it. Pick up the current issue of Chicago magazine and read about it (page 20). Or check it out on WTTW.