By: Kevin Jachimowicz
The ‘war on drugs’ is a term that I recall hearing since I was just a kid in elementary school, probably thanks to the D.A.R.E program, either that or one of those ‘this is your brain on drugs’ adverts. In a perfect world, the war on drugs is a highly respectable and responsible concept, that would successfully function; in the real world, it appears the policy creates far more systemic problems than it solves. “The House I Live In” is a heartbreaking film documentation of our nation’s drug laws and the damage they can cause, and have caused. The front of the DVD’s cover bears the quote: “The war on drugs has never been about drugs.”
The director of “The House I Live In”, Eugene Jarecki, began his journey of filming this documentary with an urge to show people how hard drugs ravaged a family close to his heart. In the end, he decided to unhinge some of the America’s greatest misconceptions of the incessant drug problems that exist in the United States. Many voices are featured as spokespeople to support the various claims Jarecki is making throughout, including the creator of The Wire, David Simon.
The discussion begins as a Grandmother discusses how drug abuse hurt her and her family, ultimately either imprisoning or taking the lives’ of her children. Other people of importance are featured throughout the documentary to offer their own explanations and experiences. These people include everyone from an Iowa Judge whose specialty is drug cases, to those involved in the illicit drug trade themselves. These additional voices are pivotal to Jarecki’s goal – providing a full-circle perspective in regards to the institutions built and jobs created due to the illicit drug industry. The serious need to look at drug use as a health problem and not a crime is also discussed repeatedly. “The House I Live In”, in its final argument, seemingly claims that those in positions of power have created a system designed to imprison subsets of the population.
What makes “The House I Live In” really hit home, more-so than your typical documentary, is in the way that it facts alone are weaved throughout the overall story. These laws that are sometimes arbitrary, also highlight just how systemic the war on drugs has become.
“The House I Live In” is a successful showcase of the numerous facets which make up the world of drugs, from the foot soldiers to the policy makers. The disconnect between those who create laws and those who live with the consequences of them is a real concern raised by Eugene Jarecki and his co-narrator David Simon.
“The House I Live In” is a great documentary due to the way it engages the viewing audience, keeping them interested, and sparking them to ask more questions, and push the debate even further.