In September 2009, bystanders filmed 16-year-old Derrion Albert being beaten to death close to his school in Chicago's South Side neighborhood. Here, the predominately black population lives in poverty and must cope with rampant crime and ever-increasing violence. Over a period of 14 months, James and his small crew followed three members of the Ceasefire organization, which takes to the streets to defuse explosive situations before people get hurt. These "violence interrupters" know exactly what they are dealing with: they know the culture of the local gangs inside out, speak the language of the "hood," and above all have considerable powers of persuasion. The fact that James was able to film extremely threatening or precarious situations so close up is thanks to his painstaking way of working, taking the time to win the trust of his subjects. The dramas of a society in which violence is the tragic outcome of many complex factors, and in which even young children shoot at one another, play out right in front of his camera. It is in this grim environment that the members of Ceasefire operate, with incredible persistence and pragmatism, trying to offer a different life to disaffected youth.
Adam Kotlowitz from Kartemquin Films, Steve James from Kartemquin Films
Teddy Leifer from Rise Films, Paul Taylor from Rise Films, Justine Nagan from Kartemquin Films, Gordon Quinn from Kartemquin Films