Eugene Jarecki was a Caucasian boy who thought critically about the struggles of his family'sblack employee and later, as a grown man, why exactly his life turned out so differently than her sons'. Jarecki is the filmmaker of The House I Live In, a poignant documentary that shines a big bright discerning light into the shadows of America's "War on Drugs." Within the opening chapters of the film, he voluntarily empties his pockets, disarms us, and identifies his proximity and interest in the topic.
Professor after Intellect, Prison Guard after Police Officer, stories unfold from the lips of arbitrary observers and cold hard empirical statistics enforce the cyclical nature of class, race, poverty and crim. Heartbreaking accounts of systematic inequities are detailed from in the prison cell and outside. From behind the court bench and below it.
Jarecki's storytelling is artful and slightly waxing poetical-in an effective manner I might add. He utilizes monologues in the film to humanize the numbers we see and discussions we hear with criminals we come to know over the course of the film; the same criminals we ultimately sympathize with by the end.
Do not get me wrong, this is not a straight up "world against them" diatribe. David Simon, the man behind HBO's the Wire, has a number of well spoken and intelligent insights. He tells us, "what drugs haven't destroyed, the war against them has." This statement is referring to the futile attempt at eradicating drugs from the U.S. for the last 30 years. More black men are going through the legal system (prison, parole, and prosecution) than there were slaves in America 200 years ago. The film indicates a strongly biased machine that affects the entire lower class, but disproportionately the black population.
Near the conclusion of the documentary Simon suggests the "War on Drugs" as a major factor contributing to the cyclical nature of social class. Although never uttered on screen, in many accounts it is implicit that the "War on Drugs" has also been a proponent of racism; the suppression and oppression of the minority populations in America.
"The House I Live In" is a well groomed film. Very little fat and a lot of substance. Easily the most thorough screen analysis of America's current socioeconomic situation that I have discovered to date. This should be the "Super Size Me", the catalyst, for discussions regarding class in our country. Unfortunately, the same dominant system and mentality that works against many subjects in the film, does not appear to be concerned with fixing what is broken.
Bronx drug dealer Shanequa Benitez tells us, "[Society] views [me] as, 'damn you live over there?' But they don't bother to ask, 'damn was it your choice?'" With a jaded resolve Benitez points out the irony in the questions we typically ask about social issues. See for yourself if Jarecki is asking the right ones.