Director: Eugene Jarecki
Producer: Melinda Shopsin, Sam Cullman, Christopher St John
Cast: Nannie Jeter, David Simon
US 108mins Documentary
As a Jew acutely cognisant of his own ancestral history and the price his parents paid for his freedom, Jarecki returns to visit his parents’ home help, his Nanny, in an effort to try to understand current laws governing drug crime in America.
In starting this dialogue he achieves the impossible; he offers up an astonishing insight and overview on the seemingly endlessly labyrinthine process of both the inherent misery and the War On Drugs policy, making it so crystal clear that even a five-year-old could grasp it with ease.
One of the Executive Producers, a certain Brad Pitt, had this to say on the subject:
“My drug days are long since passed but it’s certainly true that I could probably land in any city in any state and get whatever you wanted. I could find anything you were looking for. Give me 24 hours or so. And yet we still support this charade called the drug war. We have spent a trillion dollars. It’s lasted for over 40 years. A lot of people have lost their lives for it. And yet we still talk about it like it’s this success”.
Jarecki has done his homework and picked perfect targets to interview to best enable his story to be told. One of the interviewees is David Simon, creator of the amazing HBO series concerning the Great American ghetto and drugs, The Wire. The House I Live In examines the origins of the drug war, how it came into being and why it persists to this day; even though the devastation it incurs is evident to all from those arrested, those left behind, the Police, the judges, the DEA and the Prison Officers.
It may be surprising to note that historically opium, cocaine and marihuana were all legal in America and anyone suffering addiction was treated with sympathy and, indeed, remedy in the past. That these drugs were outlawed for reasons of Race, is just about as uncomfortable a truth to swallow as any that America has needed to over its recent rather indigestible past. That in more recent times the reason has slid over to one of poverty can hardly be any more comforting.
Fact after fact that rolls out of this film is simply jaw-dropping. As the movie continues, a growing realisation occurs and it becomes at once profoundly sad, frustrating and enraging in equal measure as the full impact and ramifications set in. I could sit here and list any number of them, but would only succeed in reducing the impact, thereby robbing both film and audience. I can only urge one and all to see it for themselves. AT