Maurice Haltiwanger does time in the big house.
THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (Eugene Jarecki). 108 minutes. Opens Friday (January 11) at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See times. Rating: NNNN
Documentarian Eugene Jarecki, who explained the mechanisms of the military-industrial complex in Why We Fight, returns to explore another regrettable intersection of political policy and social reality with The House I Live In.
The topic here is the American war on drugs, which has been going on for more than four decades and done absolutely nothing to diminish the demand for illegal narcotics - though it's succeeded wonderfully in expanding the U.S. prison industry, with mandatory sentencing minimums guaranteeing the nation's jails are horrifically overcrowded.
Jarecki taps David Simon, creator of The Wire (and a veteran Baltimore beat reporter), to explain the cynicism and outright contempt that drives U.S. drug policy. Historian Richard Miller provides a fascinating look at the use of "drug fiend" propaganda over the past century - always blatantly racist and always designed to rally white citizens against immigrant communities.
It's a sombre and potent investigation. Jarecki doesn't shy away from the real damage done to families and communities by rampant drug abuse, but he never loses sight of the larger issue: America's war on drugs has been an utter failure that, like most authoritarian efforts, now exists primarily to perpetuate itself by the most draconian means imaginable.