Movie Review: ‘The House I Live In’

By Stefan Byfield
Stefan Byfield
Stefan Byfield
October 31, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
I 'The House I Live In' (Courtesy of Derek Hallquist)
Inmates in the film 'The House I Live In' (Courtesy of Derek Hallquist)

Eugene Jareki’s searing documentary The House I Live In attempts to demonstrate how America’s War On Drugs has failed.

Since President Nixon coined the phrase back in 1972 during his presidential campaign, America has become the highest jailer per capita in the world. Over 45 million drug addicts have been arrested since then yet drugs are more easily available and cheaper on the streets than ever.

Though the film recognises the seriousness of drug abuse it does not discuss the morality of drug taking. Instead it allows the people involved to be heard. To find out why, after 40 years of “war”, most of the casualties have been everyday people caught up in a force that is beyond their control.

With insights from judges, narcotic officers, and prison guards, to doctors, drug dealers, inmates, and Jareki’s own family connections, he creatively weaves a convincing and incredibly detailed account of how this failure has happened.

Jareki asserts that, from the very beginning, the illegalisation of drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and opium marginalised, through jailing, various immigrant ethnicities that were becoming exceedingly successful, and that this marginalisation continues today. Since then, despite evidence of the drugs war’s moral, economic, and practical failures, political and economic corruption has fuelled the destruction of the rights of millions of American citizens.

At once engaging and shocking, Jareki paints a more honest and optimistic conclusion that ultimately comes from the subjects of this award-winning documentary itself. Once the truth of a matter emerges into the public eye, obfuscation of the facts only serves to destroy a system that propagates them.

Hence, the War On Drugs rhetoric has all but disappeared from contemporary presidential campaigns. No one really wants to be associated with a catastrophic failure that assaults The House I Live In.