The Chicago-based documentarian Steve James isn't a great filmmaker, but he has a journalist's nose for a great story. His beat is the challenges faced by low-income city kids: the teens in Hoop Dreams who are hopeful that basketball will be their ticket to a better life; the young Chicagoans in The Interrupters, his latest, whose lives are blighted by the cycle of violence.
The subject of The Interrupters is a program called CeaseFire: Violence Interrupters. CeaseFire attempts to intervene before one violent act provokes another and to help young people get off the wrong track. What the group is fighting against is staggering: generations of poverty and crime, the machismo and the fear of appearing weak that come with gang violence, the mind-set that history and survival justify retribution.