The Interrupters

2011 Documentary

Award-winning filmmaker Steve James delivers another powerful look at life in urban America with this documentary. As gang violence became more common (and deadly) in the city of Chicago, social workers, activists, and educators founded a group called CeaseFire in 2000 to help curb the tide of aggression. CeaseFire's counselors work with at-risk youth in communities heavily impacted by violence to teach them that there are better ways to resolve personal conflicts than with guns, believing that the biggest problem isn't gangs but the notion of violent retribution so deeply ingrained in their culture. Many of CeaseFire's volunteers have backgrounds in youth gangs and understand all too well the lives of the people they work with, and in The Interrupters James spends a year following a handful of CeaseFire activists as they try to educate teenagers about the true consequences of gun violence one person at a time, sometimes with immediate success, sometimes with frustrating results. The Interrupters received its world premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. more..

Director: Steve James

Starring: Eddie Bocanegra, Ameena Matthews, Ricardo Williams, Tio Hardiman, Gary Slutkin


  • The Interrupters is based on a much-acclaimed article in the New York Times Magazine by Alex Kotlowitz, who followed a period of intense violence in Chicago. He joined with James to co-produce the film. It is difficult to imagine the effort, day after day for a year, of following this laborious, heroic and so often fruitless volunteer work.

    Roger Ebert - The Chicago Sun-Times

    27 April 2013

  • The immediacy and caprice of violence in The Interrupters are just as strong as in nearly every documentary I've seen about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Wesley Morris - The Boston Globe

    27 April 2013

  • No concept in the critical lexicon has been more devalued and debased than "inspirational." The term has been so misused, it's just about lost all meaning. A film that makes that word real and vital has to be special. The Interrupters is such a film.

    Kenneth Turan - Los Angeles Times

    27 April 2013

  • One of the first things that strikes you about these courageous people, who constantly confront volatile, gun-carrying thugs, is that they outgrew their violent pasts and now live contented lives with their families.

    Rene Rodriguez - Miami Herald

    27 April 2013

  • A welcome return from Hoop Dream director Steve James. Even at just shy of three hours, the format strains to accommodate such a complex, involving true-life story, but it makes a seriously impressive attempt.

    David Parkinson - Empire

    27 April 2013


  • Best Documentary

    Black Reel Awards (2012)

  • Best Documentary

    Chicago Film Critics Association Awards (2011)

  • Best Documentary

    Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards (2011)

  • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary

    Directors Guild of America (2012)

  • Steve James

    Gotham Awards (2011)