14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Overall, Great Doc,
This review is from: The House I Live In (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. The California government criminalized opium use in order for law enforcement to arrest and disenfranchise Chinese railroad workers. After I thought about this, I was not all that surprised because American history is full of racial tensions, not just between white and black people.
In regards to the prison/police/defense industrial complex, Jarecki reveals the scandalous financial interests behind the War on drugs. Crime is part of a supply and demand business cycle; cops' jobs depend on crime. Police departments have a financial interest in crime, and officers who arrest more people for drug possession will have a better chance of getting promoted than officers who arrest less people for rape, theft, and less common crimes. Under civil forfeiture laws, judges, cops, and prosecutors also make money in revenue-sharing agreements for confiscated drugs. Basically, their paychecks depend on drug "crimes". The same goes for gun manufacturers and prison construction companies. In today's industrial society, corporate interests collide with any war.
But unfortunately, I have to dock the film one star because of the stupid, sentimental background music. The director is trying to control your emotions with soft piano/violin playing. This is fine for a fictional drama movie, but is not appropriate for a documentary. Documentaries are supposed to give you the facts, and let you interpret them however you see fit, and emotional music like that heard here over dramatizes the film.
Otherwise, the film is a masterpiece. I highly recommend it.
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Initial post: Jul 17, 2013 1:36:39 PM PDT
Jason Panella says:
YES. Fantastic documentary, amazingly bad music. It sounded like it was ripped from a Lifetime movie.
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