MCN Columnists
Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Sundance Day 2: World-Premiering 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.


Quote Unquotesee all »

“Roger Ebert claimed that the re-editing of The Brown Bunny after Cannes allowed him a difference of opinion so vast that he first called it the worst film in history and eventually gave it a thumbs up. This is both far fetched and an outright lie. The truth is, unlike the many claims that the unfinished film that showed at Cannes was 24 minutes shorter than the finished film, it was only 8 minutes shorter. The running time I filled out on the Cannes submission form was arbitrary. The running time I chose was just a number I liked. I had no idea where in the process I would actually be when I needed to stop cutting to meet the screening deadline. So whatever running time was printed in the program, I promise you, was not the actual running time. And the cuts I made to finish the film after Cannes were not many. I shortened the opening race scene once I was able to do so digitally. After rewatching the last 4 minutes of the film over and over again, somewhere within those 4 minutes, I froze the picture and just ended the film there, cutting out everything after that point, which was about 3 minutes. Originally in the salt flats scene, the motorcycle returned from the white. I removed the return portion of that shot, which seemed too literal. And I cut a scene of me putting on a sweater. That’s pretty much it. Plus the usual frame here, frame there, final tweaks. If you didn’t like the unfinished film at Cannes, you didn’t like the finished film, and vice versa. Roger Ebert made up his story and his premise because after calling my film literally the worst film ever made, he eventually realized it was not in his best interest to be stuck with that mantra. Stuck with a brutal, dismissive review of a film that other, more serious critics eventually felt differently about. He also took attention away from what he actually did at the press screening. It is outrageous that a single critic disrupted a press screening for a film chosen in main competition at such a high profile festival and even more outrageous that Ebert was ever allowed into another screening at Cannes. His ranting, moaning and eventual loud singing happened within the first 20 minutes, completely disrupting and manipulating the press screening of my film. Afterwards, at the first public screening, booing, laughing and hissing started during the open credits, even before the first scene of the film. The public, who had heard and read rumors about the Ebert incident and about me personally, heckled from frame one and never stopped. To make things weirder, I got a record-setting standing ovation from the supporters of the film who were trying to show up the distractors who had been disrupting the film. It was not the cut nor the film itself that drew blood. It was something suspicious about me. Something offensive to certain ideologues.”
~ Vincent Gallo

“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster