There's something satisfying about watching documentary films rather than just fictional movies once in a while. Particularly now when I'm not working I need something to stimulate my brain (!), so after a brief Google search I decided upon The Interrupters (see trailer). I was partly drawn to it because it is set in my husband's home city of Chicago. It follows a group of reformed individuals who have turned from a life of gangs, drugs and violence to help the very people they used to be like. Working for an NGO called ''Cure Violence'' (formerly ''Ceasefire'') they use their own experiences to try to connect with people who are at risk of becoming the perpetrators or victims of violence to help reduce the number of injuries and deaths that plague the mainly African American communities of South Side Chicago.
Before watching this I really had no idea about the level of violence that exists there. Having visited Chicago several times I suppose I'd never really thought beyond the tourist's impression of the city - Lake Michigan, the Sear's Tower etc. But this really interested me, particularly from a geographical point of view. It vaguely reminds me of a book I studied during my degree. I miss studying sometimes (even though at the time I'd probably have rather not read it!). But anyway, I digress, back to the point, Chicago apparently has one of the highest crime rates in the US, it's listed in the Top 100 Most Dangerous Cities and last year (in 2012) 506 people) were murdered (compare that to under 100 in London, a city with a population almost 4 times that of Chicago). So far this year 62 people have already been killed, including 6 month old Jonylah. As the mother of a 4 month old myself, I can't imagine how it must feel to witness your own baby being shot and killed, I feel worried when he just gets a bump on the head!
So, my point is, anything that can be done to try and prevent such events from happening is a very good thing, and I really admire the ''Interrupters'' in this film, who not only have turned their own lives around but are now risking their lives to help others. As a Muslim myself, It was also good to see another Muslim sister doing this type of work. I found it refreshing to see another 'type'' of Muslim, someone who, once they converted, did not turn their back on their old community, on the 'kuffar'' but went out of their way to be a positive influence, and did not let their new lifestyle and hijab get in the way.
In my experience some Muslims seem to want to keep away from ''fitnah'' by only keeping good company and thus shunning or judging those who's actions are far from praiseworthy. Of course it is good to seek the company of righteous and good people, so that you can be positively influenced yourself. And you should never hang out with people who are committing sins in a social context. I mean, how often have you heard of people getting into trouble because they 'got in with the wrong crowd'?
But on the other hand if the prophet (pbuh) had done that no one would have ever converted to Islam right? Surely it is our job to help misguided people to find the right path, and do so without judging them. This is what Ameena Matthews does. She was very understanding, and not judgmental. Yet she was also confident in her beliefs and convictions of right and wrong.
So, you can tell that I found the people and work they do inspirational. As for the film itself, I have given it 5 stars to credit the people in it, but I did find it was dragged out a little in places. Although this might have been because I couldn't quite understand what was going on in some scenes! Perhaps because I'm not familiar enough with the culture/accent/slang, but I understood enough to get the gist.
Well, if you've been inspired to watch it or already have, please leave me a comment and tell me what you thought. You can also see an interview with the director here.