Steve James doesn’t do brevity. Hoop Dreams ran three hours and no one would have balked at more. But James’ new film, The Interrupters, sags under its similarly epic runtime. In this yearlong study of a Chicago organization trying to combat that city’s recent surge of youth gang violence, James presents a pow wow of reformed gangsters trying to make good on their violent pasts by jumping directly into the fires of neighborhood turf wars. Much of the film follows Ameena Matthews, the daughter of a kingpin and once a formidable crime boss in her own right, who trades her street cred for an attempt at urban peace. When girls from a high school combat zone say they don’t know why they fight but do so anyway because it’s expected, James spares none of the would-be crime-stopper’s frustration. It’s gripping stuff for any big city, if a tad long.
Wednesday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m. at AFI Silver 1.