The House I Live In Reviews
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
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.