NU prof’s film named Best Documentary by Indie Spirit Awards

    The Film Independent Spirit Awards named The Interrupters the best documentary of 2011 on Saturday, a boon for its Northwestern-associated producer Alex Kotlowitz.

    Kotlowitz is a longtime writer-in-residence at Northwestern’s Center for the Writing Arts and a senior lecturer at Medill. The film’s director and producer, Steve James, is best known for his 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams.

    “This means a lot for a film like this,” James said when he accepted the award, according to Frontline’s website. “It’s about urban violence. We didn’t realize the impact this film would have.”

    The Indie Spirit Awards drew the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Christopher Plummer. Seth Rogen hosted the event, known for its casual vibe.

    “It’s really actually special to be hosting the Independent Spirit Awards,” he joked in his opening monologue, “'cause they have the distinction of being the only awards show that is completely inconsequential.”

    The Indie Spirit Award capped a busy month for the film: on Feb. 14, the film premiered on PBS’s Frontline, and a week later Kotlowitz spoke at University Hall about its creation.

    The Interrupters grew out of a New York Times Magazine piece Kotlowitz wrote about Ceasefire, which strives to stop violence in Chicago neighborhoods. Struck by the story’s potential as a film, he sought James, already known for his documentary work in Chicago.

    In an interview with NBN last week, Kotlowitz said he hoped he and James would turn the film’s successful theatrical and festival runs into a successful outreach campaign.

    “We really want to get this film into communities, especially communities that’ve been hit by the violence, whether in Chicago or elsewhere,” he said. “We even screened it at a prison a couple weeks ago. And so that’s our effort at the moment is to make sure this film has a life beyond its broadcast.”


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