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The House I Live In

NR CC

From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, a penetrating look inside America's criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy. A FilmBuff Presentation.

Starring:
Eugene Jarecki, Michelle Alexander
Runtime:
1 hour, 48 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Documentary
Director Eugene Jarecki
Starring Eugene Jarecki, Michelle Alexander
Supporting actors Mark W. Bennett, Joe Biden, Michael Bien, Charles Bowden, Mike Carpenter, Betty Chism, Michael Correa, Michael Correia, Eric Franklin, Glendon Goldsboro, Maurice Haltiwanger, Carl Hart, Elzie Hooks, Nannie Jeter, Anthony Johnson, Kecia Johnson, Larry Kastner, Jonathan Kaufman
Studio Cinetic
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Allaer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 17, 2013
Format: Amazon 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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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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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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