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Defusing Violence on Chicago's Mean Streets

Free screening of “The Interrupters” and Q&A with film’s producer and an “interrupter”

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October 6, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold
Produced by Matt Paolelli

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Attend a free screening of the “The Interrupters” at Northwestern University on Wednesday, Oct. 19, and then stay for a question-and-answer session with one of the courageous anti-violence activists the highly acclaimed documentary film portrays as well as Alex Kotlowitz, who produced it.

The free and public screening begins at 6 p.m. at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus.  The “talk-back” session will follow.

“The Interrupters,” directed by Steve James of “Hoop Dreams” fame, follows three former gang members who put themselves in harm’s way to defuse scenarios of intense and heartbreaking volatility in some of Chicago’s most troubled neighborhoods.

The anti-violence workers are part of CeaseFire, an organization that combines science and street outreach to stop shootings and killings. Over the course of a year, the filmmakers documented CeaseFire workers as they forged relationships in their communities, changed minds and saved lives in a landscape of gang bangers, drug dealers, innocent victims and mourning families.

“The Interrupters” arose from a New York Times Magazine article that Kotlowitz, a senior lecturer at Medill, wrote about CeaseFire in 2008. It was being made when, in September 2009, a video of the fatal beating of a Chicago high school student went viral and renewed discussions about urban violence around the world.

The Northwestern screening and discussion are co-sponsored by Northwestern’s Center for the Writing Arts, the Center for Civic Engagement, Medill and the Block Museum.