Acclaimed Documentary Highlights Cure Violence's Success at Stopping Community Violence

    • July 29, 2011

An RWJF-supported program dedicated to ending gun violence in some of the nation's most vulnerable communities is being showcased in theaters across the country this summer and fall. Through the efforts and experiences of three men and women, the documentary The Interrupters takes an often gripping, always real-world look at the work of Cure Violence, formerly known as CeaseFire.

The documentary's trio of stars are "violence interrupters" in the Chicago community of Englewood. Eddie Bocanegra, Ameena Matthews and Ricardo Williams, all self-described former gang members, know first-hand the dangers and tragedy of the epidemic that has long plagued the area. Director Steve James doesn't gloss over their work, as the New York Times noted in a review praising the film:

"There is a long tradition of what has been described as victim documentaries, nonfiction movies in which filmmakers train their cameras at people enduring crushing hardships. At their worst these documentaries exploit the suffering of others, turning their pain into consumable spectacles. 'The Interrupters' evades that trap partly because it doesn’t try to sell a happy, easily digestible story and partly because it digs in."

Cure Violence, which began in 2000, reaches out to teens and young adults to offer them direct alternatives to shooting and killing. RWJF has funded the program virtually since its start, helping it to test and refine its intervention and prevention strategies. Cure Violence is now working in other cities where violence is an acute health problem, including Crown Heights, N.Y., Kansas City, Mo., and New Orleans. La.

The results in other communities are still preliminary, but in Chicago, murders in Cure Violence zones dropped sharply over the decade.

Tweet? Get updates on The Interrupters from @cureviolence or @TheInterrupters or by following @AmeenaMatthews or @CobeWilliams.