PUMA IMPACT AWARD: 'The Interrupters' Is Third Film On Shortlist For Prestigious Documentary Prize


The PUMA Impact Award seeks to recognise and honour the documentary that has made the most significant social impact over the last year, and HuffPostUK is profiling in turn the five films to have made the shortlist.

Susan Sarandon, Gael Garcia Bernal and Ricken Patel, founder of online activist community Avaaz, are all on the jury deciding which of these five films has made the most significant positive impact on society or the environment.

'The Interrupters' shows how a new mindset can impact on urban violence in Chicago

The five impressive films cover topics ranging from a miscarriage of justice in the Philippines, to violence intervention and prevention on the streets of Chicago, through to bullying in US schools, an exploration of Indonesia's death squads and sexual assault in the US military. All of the projects have prompted remarkable and measurable change.


On the troubled South Side of Chicago, where an estimated third of the daily crime rate can be attributed to narcotics, an experimental initiative - Ceasefire - attempts to change the way we impact urban violence. A key part is the use of Violence Interrupters - volunteers who, with humility, courage and humour, step in and try to prevent the violence that was once a key part of their own lives.

The film, directed by Steve James, follows three of these people - Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra. Matthews is the daughter of an emprisoned gang leader, Williams and Boganegra have both been behind bars themselves. They speak the language of the people they are trying to help, and they are walking inspiration, to those who want to see it.

"Their lives have continued beyond the police blotter and by sharing their story, they prove there is a way to end the cycle of violence," says Patrick Lile of Kartemquin Films.

Tim Horsburgh of Kartemquin Films explains: "All we seek (is) to spark a democratic dialogue about an issue as our core goal... and altering the media perception of these communities, and furthering the philosophy that "violence is a learned behaviour" as CeaseFire claims.

"The film shows that change can come from a single person taking another person out to lunch when they are really angry, and that simple act of community kindness can alter the course of multiple lives. And yet it also shows how difficult and painful and perhaps futile that process can be."

"That simple act of community kindness can alter the course of multiple lives"

The film was shown at the United Nations on International Peace Day, and collected a number of awards since it first appeared, with other cities around the world seeking to implement their own Interrupters programme. The film can be seen online for free in the US, one of the priorities of the filmmakers, who are furthering their efforts through www.Interruptviolence.com, designed for use by teachers in the classroom.

"The key audience we always wanted to reach was young kids dealing with the violence in their lives," adds Horsburgh.

"A nice surprise is when we hear stories like the Chicago Juvenile Court Judge who now orders kids who are on probation for a gun violation to watch 'The Interrupters', or they get a more severe sentence."

Other cities are now adopting the same scheme of deploying Interrupter Volunteers

From the shortlist of five, the winning film will be announced at the PUMA Impact Award Celebration in New York on 13 November 2013. 50,000 Euros will be awarded to the creative and campaigning minds behind the winning entry to acknowledge the filmmakers, and to help support the continued efforts of the film's campaign for change.

HuffPostUK are delighted to be PUMA/BritDoc's editorial partner for the third year for this important documentary event. For more information about the PUMA Impact Award, click here.

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