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Review: The House I Live In


A confrontational and heartbreaking look at America’s prolonged so-called war on drugs in this powerful award-winning piece, a film that won best Documentary at Sundance last year. It unravels into a thorough and chilling look at the causes and effects of drug use in the United States that discovers a vicious, money-driven cycle from which there seems little escape.

Who’s in It?
Directed by Eugene Jarecki, the film is driven by both his personal story, and the professional experiences and understanding of David Simon, who is better known for creating the best show in the history of television, The Wire.

Jarecki begins the film with a more personal journey, chatting with his ‘second mother’ Nannie Jeter, whose past decisions regrettably hurt her own family. Exploring what happened to her son involving drugs, Jarecki broadens the discourse, interviewing drug dealers, criminals, and law officials. The deep-voiced and well spoken Simon, meanwhile, interviewed against a black background, offers historical context and unequivocally states systemic problem after problem in the United States.

Political rhetoric, institutional malaise, public fear, and of course money, have all contributed to the vast problem that is not race-based, but class-based, Jarecki argues. He parallels the introduction of crack cocaine in the 80’s with that of methamphetamines in the 90’s, and the mandatory minimum sentences that keep people in jail for decades.

The uncomfortable moments come early and often.  In one of the first, a Harvard professor dismisses the notion of equality of life, explaining simply that we shouldn’t be able to predict where newborns in an inner city hospital will end up in life—but we can. Jarecki does lay it on thick, he finds only the most sympathetic of criminals to interview, but his point is clear and effective, and because of that, the film is frustrating and depressing.

Jarecki easily makes the case that everyone is affected by the issue, as we are all subject to a flawed system, and we all pay the cost. It is ultimately a film that should be seen by as many people as possible; Simon argues that politicians will not act until the public act first. Whether or not he is right, it’s clear that sweeping changes need to be made.

Should You See It?
Yes, and then again so as not to forget.

Memorable Quote:
Never one to be unsure of his words, David Simon declares unequivocally.“The drug war is a holocaust in slow motion.”

[star v=45]

The House I Live In will be playing at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema this Friday, January 11th. Click here for a complete schedule.

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.