Violence interrupter Ameena Matthews with Producer/Director Steve James, Producer Alex Kotlowitz, and Co-Producer/Sound Recordist Zak Piper

“Every city needs its hero,” reads the tagline of Alex Kotlowitz and Steve James’ documentary, “The Interrupters,” which will be screened twice at Theatre Charlotte this Saturday.

In recent history, influential documentaries like “Restrepo,” “Bowling for Columbine,” and “Food Inc.” have proven that films have the power to not only influence public perception but to also bring about lasting change.

Filmed in gang-ridden Chicago over the span of one year, “The Interrupters” follows three ex-gang members,  Ameena, Cobe and Eddie, who are determined to intervene in the conflicts before they explode into violence.

Ameena Matthews is the daughter of one of the city’s most notorious gang leaders and was once a drug ring enforcer. Cobe Williams is scarred by his father’s murder that occurred when he was 12-years-old. And Eddie Bocanegra is haunted by a murder he committed when he was seventeen.

As each “violence interrupter” begins to intervene, they are faced with moral quandaries.

Chicago is still the setting to some of America’s most brutal and high profile acts of violence, including the beating to death of Derrion Albert, a Chicago High School student whose death was caught on videotape.

Still, news networks continue to overlook these incidents. Director Steve James aims to shed light on these brutal occurrences.

“Making ‘The Interrupters’ was a gift,” said James.

“I became a documentary filmmaker because I wanted to understand people and communities other than the ones I’ve lived in.

“The best film experiences are akin to living inside a rich and surprising novel.  Your own personal life and day-to-day worries tend to recede and pale in comparison as you bear witness to the lives and often profound struggles of others.”

An initiative of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention called CeaseFire was used in “The Interrupters.” The CeaseFire program treats gang violence like an infectious disease by going after the most infected and stop the infection at its source.

After watching a screening of “The Interrupters” in October 2011, Bermuda’s National Security Minister vowed to implement a CeaseFire-style program in the country.

Premiering at the Sundance film festival, “The Interrupters” received almost immediate critical acclaim. It became an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and the South By Southwest Film Festival among others, and it currently holds a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

“The Interrupters” will be shown twice on Saturday Jan. 14, 2012 at Theatre Charlotte at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.