One of the great blunders in Academy Awards history was when Steve James' 'Hoop Dreams,' considered one of the best non-fiction films of all time, was not even nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar. I am hopeful that the Academy won't make the same mistake with his latest, and best since. 'The Interrupters' definitely deserves such recognition and would not in the least be viewed as one of those redemptive honors. Like his 17-year-old classic, this is an incredible and moving film.
Inspired by a 2008 New York Times piece by Alex Kotlowitz (a producer and key collaborator on this film), the documentary brings James back to 'Hoop Dreams' territory, setting-wise, by following the inspiring Chicago-based organization CeaseFire, tracking the work and lives of a few members of its "violence interrupters" team. These individuals, many of whom come from a violent past themselves, now mediate gang disputes and try to resolve other potential causes for alarm that may lead to more murders, adding to an already epidemic issue in the city. Through a year in the lives, we witness the subjects' personal struggles with inner-city violence as well.