Eugene Jarecki's documentary The House I Live In will likely make you mad. Plenty of people in the theater shifted uncomfortably in their seats, groaned with anger, even hissed at the screen. And with good reason. Jarecki does a great job of laying out his premise that the "war on drugs" isn't working and in fact is hurting many Americans. He also convincingly demonstrates that those being harmed the most are minorities and the poor. All the while, politicians and the incarceration industry benefit.
Jarecki works hard to keep partisanship out of the film. That's one of the reasons The House I Live In succeeds. Sure, I have a lot of conservative friends who would balk at some of the ideas expressed in the movie. And I'll bet Jarecki leans to the left politically. But this movie would make just about anyone angry with the crazy way we've dealt with the problem of drugs in society. The House I Live In makes you want to take action to change the system and alleviate injustice.
While Jarecki's passion for his subject matter ensures the movie communicates the right messages, it also works to the film's detriment. This is a long documentary. OK so it's 110 minutes which may not seem unduly long. But key points are hammered home multiple times in slightly different ways. It gives the movie a feeling of redundancy. I was often bored.
That said, I wish Sundance would head to Washington, D.C. and set up shop on Capitol Hill. They could show socially relevant documentaries like The House I Live In. Maybe, just maybe, it might help advance the cause for change that matters.