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The House I Live In Reviews

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Anthony L

Super Reviewer

November 13, 2013
It seems most criticism for this film comes from the 'It's not entertaining enough' angle. I don't watch a documentary to be entertained, I want to be informed on the subject, I want the facts, I want to hear it from not just the horses mouth but from the stage-coach driver, it's passengers, the stowaway, the people it passes, the people it runs over and from the other three horses pulling as well. This documentary looks at the situation from various different angels but grounds it from the view of the average American household. A good documentary separates speculation from fact, and that is exactly what happens with The house I live in. It's easy for me as a non-American to criticise the US system but then my house isn't exactly in order right now either. The facts remain, sooner of later America has got to face the facts about its past in order to build a better future. Think for yourselves and never judge those who are in a position you could never imagine. You really should watch this film.

Super Reviewer

November 29, 2012
Documentary examining some of the absurdities of the War on Drugs---like mandatory minimum sentences, the crack/cocaine sentencing disparity, and asset seizure---and how they've turned law enforcement into a self perpetuating prison-industrial complex that does nothing to address the root problems. It effectively sets forth the argument that the system is broken and that those profiting from it have no incentive to fix things, but the idea of comparing scapegoated drug-users to Holocaust victims will certainly turn some people off. The doc's biggest flaw was that it needed to be made 20 years ago, when these crazy laws were being enacted.
Daniel P

Super Reviewer

August 17, 2013
A documentary that looks at the "legacy" of the US's War On Drugs. It's undeniably fascinating subject matter but its filmed in a rather sedate, distancing manner, I wanted something more passionate and angry, more exhaustive.
Jason C

Super Reviewer

November 12, 2012
The House I Live In is an uncreative, loooooooong winded, redundant documentary that isn't going to tell you anything you don't already know. There have been some powerful documentaries that are more informative and have less known information about drugs in America that give you that knowledge in a more concise, ENTERTAINING way. They'll also make you think. This one will make you yawn.

This broken record of a documentary tried to beat the same thing in over and over while tweaking its own footage to sway the audiences thought. It takes almost TWO HOURS to do so as well.

There's nothing insightful about The House I Live In and it's not much of a topic starter. It's mostly just boring. If you HAVE TO watch it, wait until you can see it free on FSTV or something.
January 21, 2013
A different view of the "War on Drugs" and it's complete failure. It touches on the devastating effects the war has caused society. Some people think these points are well known and nothing new. I don't think so. YOU MUST SEE THIS!
September 1, 2013
An absolute masterpiece that reveals the darkest side of America or how capitalism and greed have finally found a radical solution to economic inequalities and the danger it implies for society: jailing the poor, and turning prison into an horrific business. One of my favourite documentaries.
September 7, 2012
As a film its a bit incoherent and veers a little towards left wing conspiracy but it certainly address important issues.
mark d.
January 30, 2014
Sundance 2012: Won the Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
January 26, 2014
Some documentaries make you see things in a new way, some simply show you a part of the world you were hitherto ignorant of, and some make you weep. This film did the later and reminded me why injustice sickens us. This is one of those films which is so powerful in it's depiction of a system made by man that it makes it harder to believe the world is safe in our hands, and relieved that ultimately it isn't. One of the best films I have watched in a long time on a subject I probably would have had scant interest in were it not for having watched five jaw-dropping seasons of HBO's The Wire, the writer of which features heavily.
July 3, 2013
If knowing a man will die in prison for holding as much meth as the size of a ping pong ball doesn't make you sick, you're surely part of the problem - and the solution if anything is ever to be fixed. And 30 years down the road, this is the film teachers will show to their students; mothers and fathers their children - as a history lesson - whether things have changed or not.
January 11, 2014
An interesting look at the drug war. I don't know what the solution is but i know the penalty's are a little high, but i knew this before the film.
December 5, 2013
While this documentary opens your eyes to a debate that may not surface too often and lays down some pretty horrifying facts, the argument that's taken at the end is quite appalling. I walked away feeling that the documentary wanted us to view the war on drugs as a negative impact to society. So much so, that people using drugs should be an OK thing and people dealing drugs should be punished lightly (if punished at all). Each individual in this film seems to forget that drugs ruin lives. Drugs ruin the lives of the user, their families, and everyone and everything around them. The whole story is based off of the director's "nanny" who lost her child to drugs. While she claims that she "never understood the war on drugs" as she mourns her son, she is forgetting the fact that he ultimately made the wrong decision to use and unfortunately paid the ultimate price (death). To look back on his life and blame "the system" is ignorant and irresponsible. The war on drugs is also not forcing a specific race, color, gender, etc to sell or abuse drugs (which is another argument in this film). Its up to the individual to make the right decisions in life. Users and dealers know the criminal penalties related to drugs and don't have a right to complain when they go to jail for a long period of time. While the jail time is definitely harsh and outdated, it is there to protect society from people that could potentially harm it. In the end, I came away more upset and angry towards users and dealers because their lack of judgement, moral character, and responsibility is ultimately what hurts society. Not the war on drugs
November 10, 2013
A heartbreaking examination of our nation's drug laws and the damage they cause. Highly recommended viewing.
Evans Scholar Speedy
October 26, 2013
The "war on drugs" is a term that I can remember since I was a kid, mostly from the "this is your brain on drugs" commercials. In principle, this is a very noble concept that should reap solid rewards; in practice, it appears the movement creates more systemic problems than it solves. Director Eugene Jarecki started out wanting to show how drugs ruined a family close to his own; instead, he uncovers perhaps some of the biggest misconceptions and core issues of the drug problem in the United States. It also helps that he hooked in the creator of one of the best dramas of all time, David Simon (The Wire).

Jarecki started out asking about how drug abuse hurt his Nannie Jeter's family (her sons were imprisoned or died too young). He also ties in other stories: an Iowa Judge who mostly handles drug cases, residents of the projects involved in the drug trade, users and dealers imprisoned for their possession (not necessarily use) of their brand of drug, prison guards dealing with the incarcerated, police officers on the drug beat, and historians with historical perspective on drug use. These other stories help create a larger perspective around the institutions that have been built around the drug industry and how the mindset of Americans needs to stop seeing the extermination of drug use as the core issue and the rehabilitation of people as a better use of the nation's resources.

As a movie, The House I Live In works because of general movie patterns. Behaving mostly like a thriller and mystery, Jarecki uses each person to give the audience insight into the different players in the drug game. He also curveballs the audience into thinking the movie is only going to be about the affect of drugs on people's lives. Once the historian (Richard Lawrence Miller) enters the picture, The House I Live In shifts into a study of how the "abuse" of drugs has previously been a guise for the groups in power to remove those deemed unnecessary for society from society (this is also a curveball, initially, the historical facts pointed to race issues mostly). By showing repeated historical trends plus facts about how drug use has remained unchanged despite the best efforts of all parties involved, The House I Live In changes course in its final act: it argues politicians and lawmakers have created a system designed to imprison subsets of the populous and not solve the bigger problem of rehabilitating and reforming these parts of society deemed unnecessary. The House I Live In can stand alongside other great documentaries (Hoop Dreams) that start out with a small idea and eventually evolve into a conversation starter about a broader concept.

Like any good documentary as well, The House I Live In has its share of gotcha facts and wow moments. I was totally unaware of mandatory minimum sentences of multiple years for drug arrests; I was incensed that crack cocaine has 100 times more weight than injectable cocaine (so 1 ounce of crack = 100 ounces of regular cocaine in the law's eyes?), and I was totally unaware of the pattern of drugs and racism across so many ethnicities and how we have become the most jailing country in the world. What makes The House I Live In's shock value hit harder than other documentaries is the fact that it is based in facts alone and weaves into the overall story. This isn't someone lighting a faucet on fire (which can be argued), these are real laws that are sometimes arbitrary in the way they were enacted, thus showing how systemic the war on drugs has become.

The House I Live In is a powerful showcase of the many facets of the world of drugs, from the front lines to the policy makers. The disconnect between those who create laws and those who have to deal with the consequences of the laws is a real concern raised by Eugene Jarecki and his narrator/filler David Simon. The House I Live In does what great documentaries do by getting people interested in the topic and hopefully creating interest among those not directly involved in the issue. I know I feel more enlightened and fired up, I can only hope others (since the incarcerated cannot create policy) who have a voice will start using it soon.
October 12, 2013
A terrible indictment of the War on Drugs.
October 5, 2013
Compelling, well-documented and brought into perspective by interresting people, who definitely know what they're talking about.
January 19, 2013
Good, but not great, and I really wanted it to be great.
September 11, 2013
Forget waht you think you know about Americas war on drugs,This documantary shows how that war has become a skewed one with the nations jails filling up with more and more people and the law enforcers losing faith in there own system.
Director Eugene Jarecki begins his story with Richard Nixon pushing through tough laws to control drug use in America.
What is not widely know and that the film revals is that Nixon also spend a huge amount of money on the treatment of drug abuse and how later presidents cut back on this part of the deal in order to focus on the war.
Jarecki shows that if your poor or a memeber of a miniority you have greater chance of going to prison for drug offences than someone who is well off.
We see prisoners being given life sentences for carrying a small bag of Crystal meth and how there lives and the lives of their families aredestroyed by such harsh sentencing.
Jarecki shows that with a father in prison or absent that the sons and daughters are doomed to follow the same path and with over 45 million addicts imprisoned since the start of the war on drugs its a fairly bleak and crowded path.
The film reaches some shocking conclusions including the fact that many prison wardens and policemen see there role as essentially self defeating and who they feel a more compassionate approach is required in the country is to solve its drug crime problem.
The whole drug war has been fuelled by paranoia and fear and this film seeks to destroy the myths surrounding that war are in the end try to change for the better.
A film which offers great insight into a very thorny subject
September 10, 2013
An OK doc though at times preachy. Definitely highlights the war on drugs and how it's not been as effective as politicians would like. The lower class disproportionately bears the brunt of that war. And it's clear this country has created a giant industry on the backs of prisoners. The movie gives plenty of food for thought. Recommended.
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