The film Interrupters as directed by Steve James illustrates the stubborn and persistent violence that is seen in most American cities such as Chicago. Interrupters demonstrate that stopping violence follows the same process as the treatment of an infection and therefore only those who are affected are identified to stop the violence. James tells about three ex-convicts who goes to streets of Chicago every day to discourage the gang members from shooting each other. I will, therefore, discuss the realities of violence, the possibilities of notorious gang leaders to use their skills in de-escalating a conflict, the role of gender in engaging different communities to change social norms around violence and the devastating effects of violence in the society.
The first theme that is brought out by James is violence. Men who were initially gang members in the society have now become the interrupters who are now working bravely to restore peace in the society. They have committed several crimes and have been jailed for murder among other offences. What motivated them into the acts are just easy money and guns that lured them into quick violence. Some of the criminals are now old and are giving up on their lives thus killing bystanders. The criminals, who includes some young men owns sun proof cars with which they shoot anyhow around the parks in the city thus perpetuating a gang gesture (James & Kotlowitz, 2011).
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The film also follows a type of ceasefire using negotiators who monitors their neighbours and in turn attempts to reconstruct the society using the inhabitants. Many interrupters have made it their daily business to identify the gang leaders as well as the members of the individual groups. Ceasefire leaders are reporting on the various occurrences that are seen in their districts by holding meetings and later giving reports regarding their plans to salvage any situations (James & Kotlowitz, 2011). The killings seen in the American cities are a result of ethnic and even religious differences. If the people in the community are of the same race then the killings tends to follow race and beliefs to provide another form of identity.
The other theme that is evident in the form is restoration and reconciliation. James depicts a community that is offering an anti-violence campaign within Chicago and has termed it as Ceasefire. The campaign regards violence as a hysteria phenomenon that is getting out of control like a disease. There are several petty quarrels among people and most of them are settled using bullets and the act is being normalized. The interrupters who are the reformed criminals are the chief campaigners in the ceasefire. They expect to redeem the society by breaking the link between grievance and the violent reprisal that is thought to result into violence (Murray Parkes, 2008). The interrupters speaks to the combatants to view the incidents as some tolerable affronts that does not vengeance but a general malaise that only needs a peaceful attitude to cure.
James also portrays the theme of Death, which arises from the ongoing violence. The film also points out to a period when Chicago become a symbol of violence because it was composed of high profile killings and the most common one was the brutal beating of Derrion Albert who was a high school student at the Chicago high school (Murray Parkes, 2008). The student later died and the death was recorded on a video tape. In addition to that, there are many funerals as shown by flowers and labelled T-shirts that suggest a lot of mourning in the society. In almost every face, tears are flowing and therefore, the violence is regarded as a viral phenomenon that needs to be stopped by a ceasefire (TheLipTV, 2012).
Elaboration of the film Interrupters
The film gets its’ name from a group of organizers serving as conflict mediators as a part of a cease-fire plan in the Chicago project. The key focus of the team is street violence that the organizers attempts to stem using outreach workers together with the violence interrupters that literally puts themselves in the frontline. The movie features an epidemiological doctor, Dr Glary Slutkin, who likens violence to the spread of HIV or TB and therefore argues that stopping the crime will need to adopt the technique of handling infectious diseases (TheLipTV, 2012). After travelling around the globe for a global program on AIDS, he returns home and now finds that there is an epidemic in Chicago and children kills fellow children. As a result, Gary creates a program that he calls ceasefire basing his argument that violence is an epidemic and a public health concern. Therefore, as the program targeted violence itself another group called ceasefire targeted the street gangs and hence the name interrupters. The ceasefire also uses former gang members to preach the gospel of peace fearlessly as way of influencing those who are stuck in the acts. They are redeeming souls and James mentions Mr Williams who is now born again and is now saving souls. The other person involved in the ceasefire is Ms Mathews who is revealed under a scarf and is married to an imam is talking openly about her pasts (Murray Parkes, 2008). The mother of four had quit a gang life after getting a serious shot but is now redeeming herself as well as other people who are still on the streets.
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The notorious gang members who have a history of perpetrating violence are used in engaging young people in the society who is also a victim of violence perpetration to stop violence. The process of intervening or mediation helps in restoring normalcy in the society because most of the young people do not understand that there is much to lose by causing violence in the society (TheLipTV, 2012). Even though some of the young kids are not willing to listen to the interrupters, a few of them listen to the message and demonstrates a changed attitude in their lives.
Slutkin who has an experience with treating infectious diseases and controlling their spreading now employs the same model in an attempt to contain urban violence from outbreaking. The movie entails three former criminals that are now working for ceasefire as violence interrupters in Englewood as well as South Lawndale where the number of murdered men is reportedly high. The interrupters are used because they are resourceful and know how to resolve disputes without a gunplay. Using the interrupters is the only means to restore peace since many young people and the poor communities are resolving to settle on the streets as the only source of comfort.
The epidemiological approach used by Slutkin assumes that health only exists if there is no infectious agent that causes a given disease, which in this scenario is the violence (TheLipTV, 2012). When watching the movie, it becomes apparent that ceasefire explains when it is reasonable to walk away from a violence or fight. These things should be taught and not everyone may not know these by themselves. Just like Ameena shows, teaching about decision making when it comes to knowing when to leave a fight requires skills, time and is labour intensive (TheLipTV, 2012). It becomes more difficult when the process is part of teaching an adult compared to teaching a young kid. This is because the behaviour can be easily reinforced by the realities that exist in the neighbourhood including school, church and everywhere the kid goes. Ameena demonstrates a great talent in teaching herself how to behave even though part of her help comes from the family and the church education.
It is therefore evident that without education and some real forces reinforcing social health in the society then interrupting would just be buying time without curing the illness which is violence in the society. Unfortunately, scientists may want to make things messier than they are to remain value-neutral. Just like with the body, the immune system does not fight an infection by itself but needs the help of other systems to fight the infection. This is what Ameena and others are doing in Chicago to eliminate violence and heal the society. Not a single cell may stop a pathogen from destroying tissues and therefore by suggesting that Ameena had taught herself the epidemiological model tells us that only one person may be needed for the restoration of peace in the society. There are a lot to be incorporated to attain the peaceful coexistence in the society just like in education system where one educator may not offer different trainings. Therefore, the idea that interrupters will make it by themselves is questionable and therefore other mediators should be incorporated apart from ceasefire campaigners.
Conclusively, James manages to portray violence as a devastating and virulent epidemic that affects the society. He also demonstrates how it can be contained using various approaches including epidemiological model used by scientists, the interrupters who breaks the chain of revenge as well as the use of ceasefire campaigners who goes to the street to discourage the gang and their members from escalating conflict in the society. They all work efficiently but there are some challenges that need to be addressed including the argument that epidemiological model and the interrupters approach that argues that a single person can fight violence or eliminate violence. Ceasefire campaigners and the interrupters also have the challenge of not being heard by the young kids who are deeply rooted into violence.
- James, S., & Kotlowitz, A. (2011, August 11). Movie Review: The Interrupters. Retrieved from https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/movie-review-the-interrupters/Content?oid=4418107
- Murray Parkes, C. (2008). Making and Breaking Cycles of Violence. Perspectives on Violence and Violent Death. doi:10.2190/pocv14
- TheLipTV. (2012, November 27). Crime and Hope in Chicago with The Interrupters and Hoop Dreams’ Steve James [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYZJTTWX3JI
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