The drugs (war) don't work, it just makes things worse, in Eugene Jarecki's latest documentary.
Since narcotics were first declared “public enemy number one” by Richard Nixon in 1971, America’s war on drugs has resulted in 45 million arrests and cost the US over $1 trillion, with no end in sight. Award-winning film-maker Eugene Jarecki (Freakonomics) explores this ongoing struggle in his powerful new documentary The House I Live In, which takes an unflinching look at the political and social forces governing the United States’ approach to its drug problem.
The film reveals a world of impoverished neighbourhoods in which drug dealers have become de facto community leaders, and a political climate in which drug-related offences carry disproportionately high prison sentences (with politicians across the spectrum refusing to appear “soft on drugs”). The problems of addiction are documented, but there’s evidence of institutional corruption too: privatised prisons run on a for-profit basis, and “recall civil asset” seizures, by which county sheriffs can legally stop any vehicle and claim its entire contents (and the vehicle itself) without anything approaching probable cause.
The film hinges on the testimonies of people from many different areas of society and Jarecki interviews dozens of people, including Shanequa Benitez, a Yonkers resident driven to small-time drug dealing, Gabor Maté, a Hungarian physician specialising in addiction treatment, and David Simon, creator of The Wire.
The House I Live In is a bleak but gripping portrait of a disenfranchised underclass battling both their own demons and a system that doesn’t work.