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The House I Live In

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Editorial Reviews

As America remains embroiled in conflict overseas, a less visible war is taking place at home, costing countless lives, destroying families, and inflicting untold damage up on future generations of Americans. In forty years, the War on Drugs has accounted for more than 45 million arrests, made America the world's largest jailer, and damaged poor communities at home and abroad. Yet for all that, drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available today than ever before.

Filmed in more than twenty states, THE HOUSE I LIVE IN captures heart-wrenching stories from individuals at all levels of America's War on Drugs. From the dealer to the grieving mother, the narcotics officer to the senator, the inmate to the federal judge, the film offers a penetrating look inside America s longest war - a definitive portrait revealing its profound human rights implications.

The film recognizes the seriousness of drug abuse as a matter of public health, and investigates the tragic errors and shortcomings that have meant this symptom is most often treated as a cause for law enforcement, creating a vast machine that largely feeds on America's poor, and especially on minority communities. Beyond simple misguided policy, the film examines how political and economic corruption have fueled the war for 40 years, despite persistent evidence of its moral, economic, and practical failures.

Product Details

  • Actors: Nannie Jeter, David Simon
  • Directors: Eugene Jarecki
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Virgil Films and Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: July 2, 2013
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (201 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,640 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Paul Allaer TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 17, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant Video
This movie is the latest documentary from writer-director Eugene Jarecki, who has previously brought several other interesting and acclaimed documentaries, including 2006's Why We Fight and 2010's Freakonomics. Now comes Jarecki's latest.

"The House I Live In" (2012 release; 108 min.) is a detailed and critical look at "the War on Drugs", now more than 40 years on since President Nixon declared that war in 1971. The filmmaker starts at home, literally, as his revisits with his family's (black) nanny from his days growing up in suburban Connecticut and New York in the 1970s. As it turns out, the lady has lost several family members, including a son, to drugs. From there Jarecki interviews lots of different people, from jailed drug dealers to a US federal judge to a prison security guard, and on and on. One of the historians interviewed claims that the criminalization of drugs goes back to the beginning of the 20th century (when opium was outlawed to deal with the Chinese-Americans, then cocaine was outlawed to deal with African-Americans, and finally marijuana was outlawed to deal with the Mexinan-Americans). The picture that eventually emerges is devastatingly bleak: despite over $1 trillion spent and 45,000,000 arrests since 1971, the situation today is no better now than it was then, if anything, it is a lot worse. A lot attention is given to the discrepancy in penalties given for crack cocaine versus powder cocaine (100 to 1), and the devastating consequences of that on the African-American community.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By J. Paarlberg on January 17, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant Video Verified Purchase
A really stunning look at reality for those who have bought into the villainization of drug users and sellers that has been the norm of American media and entertainment for decades. This film helped me to learn about the elephant in the room when it comes to U.S. politics, justice, and economics. Here's my full endorsement: Thanks for the education!

One thing that the film doesn't explore much is solutions. However, it does tell us what and where the roots of the problem are. The roots are in floundering desperation which exists because we cause it with prejudice, bigotry, miseducation and corralled poverty. The "drug war" is one aspect of a war on the poor. Ending the drug war is the implied solution, but the film's elucidation portends just how complicated and far-reaching that end would be. Ending the drug war would mean putting a big hole in the budget of many law enforcement agencies, for one thing, and it would impoverish some rural communities where the main business is leasing and operating a prison! The U.S. is the prison capital of the world, so that's a big deal. Also, the film shows us how low-level drug sales put food on the table and shoes on the feet of poor children; if the market goes legit, then all of that is going to stop abruptly -- because big business capitalists will step in to take their place. Where are all of those small-time dealers going to get their income from then? Will they turn to other criminal enterprises? Ending the "war on drugs" is what needs to happen, but it has got to be done carefully so as not to cause even further suffering and damage.
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Economists use the term "excess population" often to describe families and individuals that, due to sudden economic change, are useless or no longer needed by society. We are living in our own version of the potato famine. This movie shows how the lower economic classes in the United States are being systematically preyed upon and wiped out by the corporate run prison system.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michael Johnson on July 16, 2013
Format: DVD
Democracy Now had a great feature story on The House I Live In last year, in which Amy Goodman interviewed director Eugene Jarecki and his family friend, Nannie Jeter (featured in the film), and the movie itself is as good as it originally looked. Contrary to what those stupid DARE programs in public schools "taught" us about drugs, the film reveals that drug dealers and users are not evil, manipulative villains lurking in the alleyways who say "hey, kid, want to buy some drugs?". Instead, drug users are people with a lot of emotional problems who consume drugs to deal with their inner pain; while drug sellers are people who are simply making a living in places where users buy drugs. "The question is not 'why the drugs'", one interviewee in the film said. "The question is 'why the pain?'". That quote really stood out to me while viewing the film. The War on Drugs has destroyed families and has not done anything to deter drug use. In fact, it seems as though it encourages it.

The House I Live In is a great film to watch along with reading the book, The New Jim Crow by Law Professor Michelle Alexander. In her book, Alexander analyzes the history of racial caste systems dating back to potential Virginia through reconstruction, to Jim Crow and the civil rights era, through the 1970/80/90s white segregationist backlash against the Civil Rights Movement through the present day War on Drugs. The War on Drugs is, as Alexander understood, basically a new racial caste system disguised in law and order language. In The House I live In, Jarecki reveals that it was not only African Americans (who Alexander mainly discusses) who were targeted in drug laws, but Chinese immigrants in California, as well.
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