THE (director: Steve James;
James; editor: Steve James/Aaron Wickenden;
music: Joshua Abrama; cast: Dr. Gary Slutkin, Tio
Hardiman, Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams, Eddie Bocanegra;
Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Steve James/Alex Kotlowitz;
Cinema Guild; 2011)
"Reality movie-making at a high point."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Steve James ("Hoop Dreams"/"Stevie"/"At the Death House Door") spends a year in Chicago (from the summer of 2009 to the spring of 2010 ) examining violence among African-American youths and how three Violence Interrupters--Eddie Bocanegra, Ameena Matthews and Cobe Williams--try to curtail the violence by using their experience as ex-gang-bangers and cashing in on their street cred to intervene in ongoing conflicts. The well-made and moving movie was inspired by a 2008 article in the NY Times by bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz. The film's community helpers work for an innovative organization, CeaseFire, founded by white epidemiologist, Dr. Gary Slutkin, who equates violence with an infectious disease. Tio Hardiman, a former street hustler, heads the field project and supervises the Violence Interrupters.
This is reality
movie-making at a high point, going to the mean
streets of Chicago (such as Englewood and Altgeld Gardens) to show it's all about the good
people versus the bad people, and how pervasive is the
everyday street violence. At one point a funeral director
explains, "young people don't expect to live past 30."
The good people
are outnumbered by the bad dudes and though the good
guys should be applauded for fighting the good fight,
it all seems hopeless unless more is done to turn out
good citizens. This no-nonsense documentary should
serve as a reliable eye-witness report that mainstream
society has all but turned its back on the ghetto, and
that the only hope is that a few reformed criminals
haven't given up in trying to reach the troubled
REVIEWED ON 12/9/2011 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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