Oscars snub The Interrupters (as they did Hoop Dreams)

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Interrupter Ameena Matthews, left, visits Caprysha, a young woman she tries to help.

Interrupter Ameena Matthews, left, visits Caprysha, a young woman she tries to help.

The Academy released its shortlist of Oscar-eligible documentaries today, and in a real surprise, Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz's great Chicago doc The Interrupters is not among them. Already charges of a Hoop Dreams–level snub are circulating. While we're hardly unbiased, we're also not alone in thinking that The Interrupters is an extraordinary achievement. Following a group of CeaseFire operatives over the course of a year, the film features personalities and stories more memorable than any you'd find in 2011's fiction films. No one I know who's seen it leaves thinking the same way about urban violence—indeed, about violence anywhere.


James is out of the country being honored at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. But Kartemquin Films' Tim Horsburgh, who hadn't yet heard about the snub when I called, took it in stride. "We make films that are going to make action in the world," he told me. "We don't make them for awards." They were hoping for a nomination, he added, but the main advantage of it would be more exposure and more viewers—more chances to get the message out.


That's a fairly calm response to what, by any measure, is an Oscar outrage. (Ironically, the shortlist includes the Weinstein Company's Undefeated, a high-school football documentary that plays like a rushed version of James's Hoop Dreams.) As Jake Malooley, who covered the Interrupters premiere screening with me, texted: "That's a damn shame. Tio and Flamo need to go 'interrupt' the Oscars."


The Interrupters is still playing at I.C.E. Lawndale.



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