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Pearl Jam Twenty and The Interrupters

AFF Day 6


Though it wasn't a part of the official Atlantic Film Festival, I attended Pearl Jam Twenty this evening, and it felt very much like a festival film, a rock doc that serves as a fine accompaniment to Wednesday's doc on Patty Schemel, former drummer for another act out of the Pacific Northwest, Hole (which I review Wednesday). In fact, I'd say this one is the superior work, if only because it doesn't linger so long on the personal problems and addictions of the members, and more on the culture, creative process and, of course, the music.

Pearl Jam Twenty made a believer out of Coast contributor Tara Thorne when she saw it at TIFF, and she isn't even that big a fan of the band. I was down with Pearl Jam when they first appeared on the scene and sought out Mother Love Bone's record when I read about the Seattle scene they grew out of. All of that history is here, lovingly put together by Cameron Crowe, who had a hand in raising the band's profile back in 1992 with his scene-setting Singles romcom.

PJ20 is worth seeing simply for spectacular live footage of Pearl Jam in the early days. The chronology and structure of the doc is a bit all over the place, with a comedic short shrift given to the drummers in the group, but it easily proves one thing: at the end of the day, Pearl Jam is the most prominent band from that scene to survive with more-or-less intact, and power to them. Even their haters, and the people who preferred Nirvana's dark punk satire over Pearl Jam's earnest rock, have to give them respect.

From that I went into Steve James' The Interrupters. It's a documentary that looks into the work of CeaseFire, a group of ex-cons and former gang-bangers in the south side of Chicago who work with troubled youth and their families, hoping to defuse the ongoing violence. It's an uphill battle with more than one murder a day in the city. The members of CeaseFire are a fascinating bunch, men and women who've learned from their mistakes and who are fearless in dealing with weapon-toting kids in the 'hood. As I watched the doc, I wondered how it got so bad there, so out of control, with families fractured, brothers fighting each other. It made me feel grateful for my circumstances.

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