By Gregory Crofton
Eugene Jarecki’s “THE HOUSE I LIVE IN” has a similar feel to his brilliant “WHY WE FIGHT,” a 2005 documentary about the rise of America’s military industrial complex. But that feeling doesn’t arrive until you’re about three-quarters through the film.
The problem I think is this: The pieces of the puzzle in “THE HOUSE I LIVE IN” — which is about America’s 30-year war on drugs — are more familiar to viewers than the storylines presented in “WHY WE FIGHT.” Therefore it’s much more tempting to tune out the street tales from strangers and personal musings from Jarecki and get bored before he finally gets down to the problems he’s presenting on screen. Putting big issues into perspective are this filmmaker’s greatest skill.
You learn in “THE HOUSE I LIVE IN” that racism, not just against African-Americans, is one factor that has pushed the country’s drug war forward over the years. “The drug war is a holocaust in slow motion,” says “THE WIRE” creator David Simon in the film, adding that it’s more of a class-based type holocaust than a race-based one. The documentary also telegraphs that today’s for-profit penitentiaries are a key part of our economy, and they require a steady flow of prisoners to stay in business.
The film, at times, is a chore, but overall it presents an intelligent argument against America’s war on drugs that’s worth learning from. Despite the tabloid voiceover in “HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS,” another recently released anti-drug war doc, if I had to pick which film to watch again, I would choose it over “THE HOUSE I LIVE IN.”
Here’s a link to my review of “HOW TO MAKE MONEY SELLING DRUGS.” I watched “THE HOUSE I LIVE IN” streaming on Netflix.