The Interrupters’ Ameena Matthew Battles Leukemia

Ameena in The Interrupters

Those of you who have seen the critically lauded documentary The Interrupters, an ITVS-funded film by Steve James (Hoop Dreams; Life Itself) that aired on PBS’s FRONTLINE last year, will be saddened to hear that its main subject, Ameena Matthews, is battling leukemia and lymphoma. While Ameena is no longer an employee of Ceasefire, the violence prevention organization featured in The Interrupters, she has been a vital part of Chicago’s efforts to help reduce its epidemic of gang warfare. Via our friends at Kartemquin Films, you can be proactive in lending a hand to Ameena’s fight by contributing to a campaign to cover her medical costs.

The Interrupters is also currently available to watch online for free via PBS Video.

Take a Stand With Independents

Calling all filmmakers and media makers! Show your support for independent film on PBS and join the “Stand With Me” photo campaign.

Last year, because of your support, independent filmmakers were returned to a prominent place on the national PBS schedule — Monday night at 10p.  The move to Monday Nights on PBS is a huge win for the entire independent film community. With the overwhelming groundswell of support from indie filmmakers, producers, and media advocates – independent film content on PBS now has a new home.

This past Friday, ITVS  launched the “Stand With Me” photo campaign asking independent filmmakers and media makers to show their support for indies on PBS by taking a photo holding a sign that reads: “I am (fill in name with own handwriting) and I stand with independents”. Our hope is to create a collective spirit among the independent film community in the social media space to support independents and drive tune in for Independent Lens, the Emmy Award-winning documentary series now airing Monday night on PBS at 10pm.

How can you participate in this call to action? Visit this link for directions on how to download the sign and upload your photo just like filmmaker Steve James and Artistic Director and founding member of Kartemquin Films, Gordon Quinn.

Stand with us and show your support for independent media makers on PBS!

American Film Showcase Heads to Monterrey, Mexico

By Claire Aguilar
Vice President of Programming, ITVS

ITVS’s Claire Aguilar participated as a film expert at the American Film Showcase in Monterrey, Mexico in August and conducted a two-day workshop at the Escuela Adolfo Prieto. 

The American Film Showcase is an international cultural diplomacy initiative, a partnership between the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts (SCA).  The purpose of the Showcase is to bring people together worldwide through film, showcasing award-winning American films to international audiences through events worldwide.  Filmmakers and film experts discuss the films and conduct workshops to international audiences of festival participants, students, and the local communities.

Filmmaker Steve James during his workshop.

I had the pleasure of participating in the showcase as an expert and conducted two workshops for filmmakers and film students in Monterrey, Mexico, with an invitation from the US Consulate in Monterrey.  I was accompanied by filmmaker Steve James, who screened his latest film The Interrupters – about a group of “violence interrupters” in Chicago who try to protect their community from the violence they once employed.  Steve screened The Interrupters as part of the Monterrey International Film Festival, and to various community groups, including at-risk youth, violence “interrupters” in Mexico, and social aid workers.

Monterrey is Mexico’s third largest city, located in the Northeast foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range.  It is a large and sprawling city that is Mexico’s 2nd richest, a commercial center filled with many multi-national corporations and is also rich in history and culture.  It also is the locus of many ongoing drug cartel battles – the Mexican drug war has touched many places in Mexico but has particularly affected Monterrey.  It was interesting to see The Interrupters – an American film about violence, drugs, and economic struggles – with many parallels to the violence around gangs and drugs in Mexico.  But it was also interesting to see how audiences in Mexico saw the similarities of universal conflict in the world and were fascinated in how these conflicts could be resolved at home. Continue reading

The Interrupters: One Year of Impact

Steve James’s acclaimed documentary The Interrupters — about the Chicago-based anti-violence group CeaseFire — continues to leave its mark on policymakers and community members.

Earlier this year, a screening of the film before Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, may have helped inspire the city to offer an unprecedented $1 million grant toward CeaseFire to hire 40 interrupters to mediate conflicts in local districts.

The visibility of the work of Ceasefire’s Interrupters program has helped to change the dialogue about violence in Chicago from sound bites on the news to deeper issues affecting families and communities,” said Gordon Quinn, co-founder of Kartemquin Films, in an email to BTB.

Kartemquin is the Chicago-based, non-profit that produced the documentary and has been a longtime champion of independent films and producers.
Continue reading

The ITVS Indie Roundup

A curated list of indie news and recommendations from ITVS’s Rebecca Huval.

Want to know how to make money? No, I mean, really, like how money is minted? This fascinating 1920 silent documentary shows how gold is melted into coins.

Enough about dusty old documentaries. This upcoming film about the Tropicalia music movement in Brazil promises to leave you with some new summer jams.

Interview whizzes Lucy Walker and Steve James turn their skills on each other as they chat about their creative paths and processes. The directors of Waste Land and The Interrupters will also give you pointers about getting sources to open up. Continue reading

ITVS Presents a Social Screening of The Interrupters

ITVS presents an online social screening of Steve James’ The Interrupters on Thursday, May 31 at 11AM PT / 2PM ET. The event will take place here.

From acclaimed producer-director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and best-selling author-turned-producer Alex Kotlowitz (There Are No Children Here),  The Interrupters tells the stories of three “violence interrupters” who, with bravado, humility, and even humor, try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they themselves once employed.

Join us for the first hour of The Interrupters with a real time panel of special guests, who will be taking part in the screening to talk about the themes of the film and take your questions live. You may continue to watch the The Interrupters after the panel ends here. Continue reading

Live Online Screening of The Interrupters

Kartemquin Films, PBS Frontline, and ITVS invite you to join the filmmakers and subjects of The Interrupters for a special live, online “social screening” of the film beginning at 5:30PM PT / 8:30PM ET. Follow this link to participate in the screening.

Watch The Interrupters Preview on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Participating in the screening will be the film’s producers Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz, and violence interrupter Cobe Williams. More participants are still to be confirmed.
Continue reading

Oakland Rallies Behind The Interrupters

Last week, Community Cinema broke records at the Oakland Museum of California with more than 450 audience members in attendance for The Interrupters.  The documentary, by filmmaker Steve James, will premiere Tuesday February 14 on PBS’ FRONTLINE. Watch a clip from the Community screening in Oakland, below:

In partnership with KQED, The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Youth ALIVE!, the Urban Peace Movement, and a host of other youth organizations represented, the film showed to a standing room only packed house in two theaters.

Youth were at the center of the discussion and made up the majority of the audience.  The panel included Ameena Matthews and Eddie Bocanegra, Violence Interrupters featured in the film.

Interrupt Violence: New Interactive Website for The Interrupters

Filmmaker Steve James’ The Interrupters premieres on FRONTLINE Tuesday night on PBS. The ITVS-funded documentary looks at a group of men and women in Chicago — most of them former gang leaders and ex-cons — that are trying to “interrupt” shootings and protect their communities from the violence they once employed.  A companion site for the film,, launched today. Kartemquin films have permitted BTB to share their post about some of the site’s features.

Today we’re launching Interrupt Violence (, Kartemquin’s first transmedia project, which will expand the journey of The Interrupters into the persistent violence that plagues American cities.

On the new site, users can explore an interactive sequence including background and personal histories of murder victims and communities featured in The Interrupters.
By April, additional sections will be created, including:

Live Chat on The Interrupters with Filmmaker Steve James

Join FRONTLINE, ITVS, and acclaimed director Steve James to discuss his latest documentary The Interrupters, which premieres Tuesday night on PBS.