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Alex Kotlowitz Wins Best Documentary Award

Northwestern writer-in-residence, Medill faculty member honored for “The Interrupters”

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February 28, 2012 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Alex Kotlowitz -- longtime writer-in-residence at Northwestern University's Center for the Writing Arts and senior lecturer at Medill -- has won a host of prestigious awards for his socially conscious reporting and writing. On Saturday, he and filmmaker Steve James were honored with a best documentary award for “The Interrupters” at the Film Independent Spirit Awards ceremony hosted by Seth Rogen..

The win for “The Interrupters,” a widely praised documentary about three community “peacemakers” working with the anti-violence organization Ceasefire in troubled Chicago neighborhoods, was undoubtedly sweet for Kotlowitz. Only three days earlier, he had spoken to a Northwestern audience about making the transition from journalist and book author to film writer and producer. 

In 2006, Kotlowitz and “The Interrupters” director James co-taught a class on television documentary making at Medill. Good friends, they both earned national recognition for works about boys growing up in Chicago’s inner city that pricked the national conscience about the challenges facing many of America’s children growing up in poverty.

Kotlowitz’s “There Are No Children Here” has sold more than a half-million copies and was selected by New York Public Library as one of the 150 most important books of the 20th century. James’ “Hoop Dreams,” about two African-American high school students’ dream of attending college and eventually playing professional basketball, won every major award for documentary in 1995 and was a surprise commercial hit. 

For more about the Spirit Award, go to http://www.spiritawards.com/