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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.

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“Yes, good movies sprout up, inevitably, in the cracks and seams between the tectonic plates on which all of these franchises stay balanced, and we are reassured of their hardiness. But we don’t see what we don’t see; we don’t see the effort, or the cost of the effort, or the movies of which we’re deprived because of the cost of the effort. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice may have come from a studio, but it still required a substantial chunk of outside financing, and at $35 million, it’s not even that expensive. No studio could find the $8.5 million it cost Dan Gilroy to make Nightcrawler. Birdman cost a mere $18 million and still had to scrape that together at the last minute. Imagine American movie culture for the last few years without Her or Foxcatcher or American Hustle or The Master or Zero Dark Thirty and it suddenly looks markedly more frail—and those movies exist only because of the fairy godmothership of independent producer Megan Ellison. The grace of billionaires is not a great business model on which to hang the hopes of an art form.”
~ Mark Harris On The State Of The Movies

How do you make a Top Ten list? For tax and organizational purposes, I keep a log of every movie I see (Title, year, director, exhibition format, and location the film was viewed in). Anything with an asterisk to the left of its title means it’s a 2014 release (or something I saw at a festival which is somehow in play for the year). If there’s a performance, or sequence, or line of dialogue, even, that strikes me in a certain way, I’ll make a note of it. So when year end consideration time (that is, the month and change out of the year where I feel valued) rolls around, it’s a little easier to go through and pull some contenders for categories. For 2014, I’m voting in three polls: Indiewire, SEFCA (my critics’ guild), and the Muriels. Since Indiewire was first, it required the most consternation. There were lots of films that I simply never had a chance to see, so I just went with my gut. SEFCA requires a lot of hemming and hawing and trying to be strategic, even though there’s none of the in-person skullduggery that I hear of from folk whose critics’ guild is all in the same city. The Muriels is the most fun to contribute to because it’s after the meat market phase of awards season. Also, because it’s at the beginning of next year, I’ll generally have been able to see everything I wanted to by then. I love making hierarchical lists, partially because they are so subjective and mercurial. Every critical proclamation is based on who you are at that moment and what experiences you’ve had up until that point. So they change, and that’s okay. It’s all a weird game of timing and emotional waveforms, and I’m sure a scientist could do an in-depth dissection of the process that leads to the discovery of shocking trends in collective evaluation. But I love the year end awards crush, because I feel somewhat respected and because I have a wild-and-wooly work schedule that has me bouncing around the city to screenings, or power viewing the screeners I get sent.
Jason Shawhan of Nashville Scene Answers CriticWire