Z
MCN Columnists
Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Sundance Day 2: World-Premiering THE INTERRUPTERS

Introducing THE INTERRUPTERS

Until a magnificent movie in the middle of the evening, the highlight of a woozy first day of Sundance was the sight of Jeff Dowd, “The Dude,” pouring a sleeve of Emergen-C into his Sundance 11 Nalgene water bottle and advising his friends, “Zinc’s better.” A day late and sleep-deprived from the get-go, I had arrived at festival headquarters three-and-a-half minutes past 6pm and failed to get my i.d. Then again, serendipity of serendipities, I would have missed my pleasing Dowd half-second on the cramped, people-jammed Marriott mezzanine.

For the third year, many documentary premieres are at the Temple Theater, an active synagogue located a few miles out, at the outer reaches of Park City. (The entrance to the auditorium, with imposingly tall doors is in the last photo, below.) There’s no parking and because of its distance, it’s essentially reachable only by shuttle bus. Friday night was the world premiere of The Interrupters, directed by Steve James and produced by Alex Kotlowitz and James. At a 9pm start and a 161-minute running time, the Q&A was necessarily short, with four or five buses packed afterwards. But there was little of the bustle or confusion of the Tokyo-packed shuttles earlier in the evening at rush hour, but for lack of a lengthier description, a communal sense of “Wow.” The press kit (but not the film) offers the subtitle, “A Year In The Life Of A City Grappling with Urban Violence.” Chicago had become a symbol of violence in U. S. cities, and the director of Hoop Dreams and the author of “There Are No Children Here,” longtime friends, had found a subject to collaborate on after Kotlowitz’s 2008 New York Times Magazine story on a group called CeaseFire, founded to stem neighborhood violence in Chicago, largely through the intervention of violence “interrupters.” The 300 hours of footage shot across the following fourteen months have been distilled into emotionally pungent, uncommonly intimate work. The language is blunt and raw, and there are bursts of on-camera violence. The most horrifying moment, a video of a killing that was broadcast around the world, is judiciously blurred yet does not lack impact, especially when The Interrupters goes to the young man’s funeral and interviews his friends and family. But the film not only suggests, but demonstrates, through the heroic investment by its subjects, day to day, that the cycle of violence can be broken, and must be broken. In the words of one, the goal is “humility and not anger.” These are powerful stories of trust, transformation, and renewal of hope in Chicago streets and the hearts of America. The closing shot is elegiac, literally dazzling, as sunset ripples golden-orange across the Chicago skyline seen from the west, not the Lake, and yet it also says Chicago, and cities, and Chicagoans, and the hope for a better nation still stand, and stand strong. It’s a powerful image, evoking one last tear, at least from this longtime Chicagoan.

Then the night, coming down. Powder, gentle, from black night sky. Shuttles shudder, disgorge. The hiss of traffic on slush simmers down to nothing. Ahead of me, boots in prior bootprints. Following the example already set.

Photos by Ray Pride: Above, an emphatic introduction by programmer David Courier. Below: Steve James, James introducing Kotlowitz and the charismatic Ameena Matthews, one of the interrupters.

Steve James
Ameena Matthews
Introducting Kotlowitz
James, Kotlowitz
Temple Theater

2 Responses to “Sundance Day 2: World-Premiering THE INTERRUPTERS”

  1. Office Kitano says:

    Great film; great review.

  2. Elmo Wertz says:

    Make sure you go on with your great blog posts, I truly like them.

Leave a Reply

Quote Unquotesee all »

Tsangari: With my next film, White Knuckles, it comes with a budget — it’s going to be a huge new world for me. As always when I enter into a new thing, don’t you wonder how it’s going to be and how much of yourself you are going to have to sacrifice? The ballet of all of this. I’m already imaging the choreography — not of the camera, but the choreography of actually bringing it to life. It is as fascinating as the shooting itself. I find the producing as exciting as the directing. The one informs the other. There is this producer-director hat that I constantly wear. I’ve been thinking about these early auteurs, like Howard Hawks and John Ford and Preston Sturges—all of these guys basically were hired by the studio, and I doubt they had final cut, and somehow they had films that now we can say they had their signatures.  There are different ways of being creative within the parameters and limitations of production. The only thing you cannot negotiate is stupidity.
Filmmaker: And unfortunately, there is an abundance of that in the world.
Tsangari: This is the only big risk: stupidity. Everything else is completely worked out in the end.
~ Chevalier‘s Rachel Athina Tsangari

“The middle-range movies that I was doing have largely either stopped being made, or they’ve moved to television, now that television is a go-to medium for directors who can’t get work in theatricals, because there are so few theatricals being made. But also with the new miniseries concept, you can tell a long story in detail without having to cram it all into 90 minutes. You don’t have to cut the characters and take out the secondary people. You can actually put them all on a big canvas. And it is a big canvas, because people have bigger screens now, so there’s no aesthetic difference between the way you shoot a movie and the way you shoot a TV show.

“Which is all for the good. But what’s happened in the interim is that theatrical movies being a spectacle business are now either giant blockbuster movies that run three hours—even superhero movies run three hours, they used to run like 58 minutes!—and the others, which are dysfunctional family independent movies or the slob comedy or the kiddie movie, and those are all low-budget. So the middle ground of movies that were about things, they’re just gone. Or else they’re on HBO. Like the Bryan Cranston LBJ movie, which years ago would’ve been made for theaters.

“You’ve got people like Paul Schrader and Walter Hill who can’t get their movies theatrically distributed because there’s no market for it. So they end up going to VOD, and VOD is a model from which no one makes any money, because most of the time, as soon as they get on the site, they’re pirated. So the whole model of the system right now is completely broken. And whether or not anybody’s going to try to fix, or if it even can be fixed, I don’t know. But it’s certainly not the same business that I got into in the ’70s.”
~ Joe Dante

Z Weekend Report