It’s often easy to put a good deal of distance between ourselves and the Holocaust. In no way am I promoting this as a good development, but the continuous passage of time only amplifies our sense of removal from the era of mass extermination. Moreover, Americans in particular can see themselves as the liberators in such a genocidal scenario, not as perpetrators.
Ask Eugene Jarecki about the Holocaust, however, and he will tell you that America has and continues to perpetrate their own against its own citizens. Sound a little dramatic? By the time he analogizes the War on Drugs with the Holocaust in his documentary “The House I Live In,” it might not feel all too hyperbolic.
Jarecki’s haunting, informative opus marks my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” because it nimbly balances both the personal and the political as it explains how the War on Drugs began and the ways it tears at the fabric of our society. He brings in top academics and scholars (as well as David Simon, the creator of “The Wire”) to discuss the roots of our current situation of mass incarceration. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a whole lot of it comes back to racism and capitalism.
But “The House I Live In” is far from a lecture. Jarecki really drives the film’s thesis home by interviewing the victims of the War on Drugs, namely, low-income families and racial minorities. Crucially, Jarecki allows an emotional entry into the film through the story of his African-American help from his childhood, Nannie, and her family. He shows the damage the broken system has wrought on her family to devastating effect.
If you saw John Oliver’s segment on prison and crave more information on the problem, go straight to “The House I Live In.” You’ll be shocked, enlightened, and hopefully outraged enough to demand some changes.