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FRONTLINE: The Interrupters

Airs Friday, February 17, 2012 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Ameena Matthews (right), violence interrupter.

Credit: Courtesy of Kartemquin Films

Above: Ameena Matthews (right), violence interrupter.

During one weekend in Chicago in 2008, 37 people were shot, seven of them fatally. FRONTLINE presents the television premiere of the award-winning documentary "The Interrupters," the moving story of three dedicated “violence interrupters”—Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra—who, with bravado, humility and even humor, work to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they themselves once employed. Their work and their insights are informed by their own journeys, which, as each of them points out, defy easy characterization.

From acclaimed producer-director Steve James ("Hoop Dreams") and best-selling author-turned-producer Alex Kotlowitz ("There Are No Children Here"), "The Interrupters" is an unusually intimate journey into the stubborn persistence of violence in our cities. The New York Times says the film “has put a face to a raging epidemic and an unforgivable American tragedy.”

The interrupters work for an innovative organization, CeaseFire, which is the brainchild of epidemiologist Gary Slutkin, who for 10 years battled the spread of cholera and AIDS in Africa. Slutkin believes that the spread of violence mimics that of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar: Go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source.

Shot over the course of a year out of Kartemquin Films in Chicago, "The Interrupters" follows Ameena, Eddie and Cobe as they attempt to intervene in situations before those situations turn violent: two brothers threatening to shoot each other; an angry teenage girl just home from prison; a young man heading down a warpath of revenge.

The film captures not only the interrupters’ work, but reveals their own inspired journeys from crime to hope and, ultimately, redemption. As they venture into their communities, they confront the importance of family, the noxious nature of poverty and the place of race. And they do it with incredible candor and directness.

FRONTLINE is on Facebook, and follow @frontlinepbs on Twitter. CeaseFire Illinois is on Facebook, and you can follow @CeaseFire_IL on Twitter.

Live Chat On Feb. 15: The Interrupters: Submit Questions

Join violence “interrupters” and FRONTLINE filmmakers for a live chat on Wednesday 2/15 at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET). Panelists will be talking about the film, the idea behind "violence interrupting," and the implications for addressing urban violence across the country. They'll be joined by New York Times reporter Jason Deparle.

Preview: Frontline: The Interrupters

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

An intimate journey across the violent landscape of our cities through the eyes of those fighting to sow peace and security.

“The Interrupters” Ameena Matthews on The Colbert Report

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"Gang 'Interrupters' Fight Chicago's Cycle Of Violence" from NPR

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